June 8, 2020
Exactly what the “next normal” will look like as the nation begins to slowly emerge from stay-at-home orders prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, was the topic of the latest NBAA News Hour, where a panel of industry experts joined Phil Derner, NBAA Western regional representative, to look at what the future may look like for business aviation.
Joining Derner were Rymann Winter, president, Proteus Air Services; Jason Middleton, CEO, Silver Air and Sonnie Bates, CEO of Wyvern LTD.
“We’re seeing charter activity increase a bit faster than we expected, which is great news,” said Derner. “As the industry starts to slowly emerge, even though we still have COVID-19 lingering around us, it’s very important for us to determine best practices. We’re all kind of learning as we go during this crisis.”
At Silver Air, Middleton said the company is “rethinking everything” as their business picks back up.
“We’ve had to go through our entire business model and look at every single touchpoint from the health and safety perspective,” he said. “As we begin to ramp back up, we realize this is a fluid situation, and identifying destination hot spots here and abroad is only part of the work. We’ve had to look at the big picture of what we are doing, and cleaning airplanes and using proper PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], such as masks is only one small part of it.”
Wyvern’s Bates said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the occupational health and safety elements of Safety Management Systems to the forefront.
“It is a changing paradigm for using the safety systems we already have. Not only are we focusing on occupational health and safety, but we’re also looking at the proficiency of both pilots and maintenance professionals, so when we do go back to full operations, we’re doing it with the level of competency than promotes true safety,” Bates said.
Middleton added that Silver Air developed a whole new system to operate in the current environment. “We did a lot of verbal communication starting in early March, and developed new processes by working with medical experts, epidemiologists, and pandemic people,” he said. “And they helped us to develop best practices, such as quickly isolating crew members from everyone to determine status, and using the proper anti-bacterial aviation products to clean inside the airplane after every flight.”
As far as making employees feel more comfortable working during the pandemic, Proteus’ Winter said it was a matter of listening to each person and understanding their concerns. “It was very much an individualized decision by each instructor. We asked if they were comfortable flying and if they were not, I completely understood. But everyone wanted to go flying.”