May 26, 2021

Although not quite out of the woods just yet, many parts of the world are finally emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent NBAA News Hour webinar addressed the need for flight operations to maintain high levels of safety, service and efficiency as our industry returns to operations under the “new normal.”

First and foremost, it’s vital that pilots be at the top of their game when returning to the flight deck.”Our pilots are current on paper, but our leadership stresses we need to be more than that,” said Mitch Greene, flight scheduler for Nike and co-chair of NBAA’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee. “There’s a greater focus on being mentally prepared – not just current, but also proficient.”

That mindset extends to returning once-idled aircraft to service. Maintenance personnel and flight crews alike need to be on the lookout for unusual, and potentially dangerous, discrepancies.

“We got wind through the industry that several flight departments had actually run into an issue where their planes had set so long in the hangars that their pitot-static system had gotten clogged by bugs,” said webinar moderator Jad Donaldson, aviation director and chief pilot at Harley-Davidson. “A critical phase of flight is not a great time to realize you’re having a major issue with that.”

As for the months ahead, many cleaning and sanitation protocols enacted in response to COVID-19 will likely continue long after the pandemic has eased. However, personnel may take differing and even controversial stances on some other COVID-related measures.

For example, some have expressed concerns about company policies to mandate vaccination against the disease. Lesley Revuelto, flight department manager and flight attendant for a Part 91 operation and member of the NBAA Flight Attendants/Flight Technicians Committee Member, has faced the opposite situation.

“We have decided as crew members that we prefer to be vaccinated because of the exposure … but the family [we fly for] has chosen not to,” she explained. “That limits our travel; there will be no Europe in the foreseeable future, and it pretty much remove any of those countries that require vaccination.”

“I don’t think we’re having as much of a problem with that as other companies that I’ve heard, with people that would rather not have the vaccine,” said Edward P. Mursko, CAM, aircraft maintenance manager at 3M Aviation. “When it gets into job descriptions and [whether or not] somebody can perform their jobs [however] it gets kind of dicey.”

Employees may also be reluctant to return to the office after working remotely for the past year. For many, however, the relief of returning to more ‘normal’ times outweighs the challenges.

“Our passengers wave to us while walking through our hangar,” Mursko said. “They’re glad to be back, and any inconvenience is far outweighed by their ability to use the aircraft again.”