May 5, 2020

Staying secure and compliant during these unprecedented times is a top priority for business aircraft operators, but normal security safeguards may not be enough to deal with conditions induced by COVID-19. Typical security protocols may be disrupted because of staffing changes due to the pandemic, so it’s more important than ever for business aircraft operators to implement appropriate policies to deal with these disruptions.

NBAA’s latest News Hour webinar – “Aviation Security During the COVID-19 Pandemic” – featured four experts who emphasized the need for exceptional vigilance, research, verification and communication in the current operating environment.

“We have to reconsider everything we are currently doing,” said Greg Kulis, one operator’s lead captain and security coordinator who is also a member of NBAA’s Security Council. “And it is important that we explain why we are taking the precautions that we are.”

Kulis noted that due to staff reductions, some airport facilities might only have one or two people checking on security and alarms systems. He suggested looking into systems for remote access in order to retrieve logs or check for unusual activities.

“Having some sort of safety device in case a lone worker is injured is also important,” added Kulis. Also, his flight department has taken steps to partner flight crews, technicians and other staff, rather than rotating them, thus limiting their exposure to the coronavirus and making contact tracing simpler should someone get sick.

Charlie LeBlanc, vice president of global assistance and security for UnitedHealthcare Global and also an NBAA Security Council member, noted that due to constantly changing regulations worldwide, having good intelligence on your destination is “more important than ever.”

“We have been seeing unprecedented border and airspace closings – sometimes with less than six-hours’ notice – and regulations are not always consistent, even within the same country,” said LeBlanc. “It’s important to know what’s going on in that country so you know what you can or cannot do.” LeBlanc cited curfews, entry requirements and other concerns that affect the safety and compliance of flight operations.

LeBlanc also warned about a recent rise in political and social upheaval in some countries, and he expects that to increase in the near future.

“It’s so important to know what’s going on in those countries and what their plan of action is regarding outbreaks of COVID,” declared LeBlanc. Domestically, LeBlanc noted that some operators are flying missions but not spending the night at their destination, because of hotel closures and other concerns. “Flights are leaving earlier in the morning so they can be back at night,” he said.

Kim Mazzeo, a chief flight attendant and a member of NBAA’s Flight Attendant Committee, suggested providing a PPE kit for each aircraft crew member, as well as providing PPE for passengers.

“We are equipping our aircraft with both cleaning and sanitizing kits,” Mazzeo added. Limiting the number of passengers, restricting access to baggage compartments and galleys, and even checking the temperatures of passengers and having them fill out a pre-screening questionnaire are all recommended to minimize everyone’s exposure risk, while still providing quality service.

Finding out what your vendors are doing to limit risk during the pandemic is also essential, noted Eric Moilanen, president of Premier Corporate Security and chairman of NBAA’s Security Council.

“What is the status of the vendor, and are they experiencing layoffs?” asked Moilanen. If they have cut staff, he noted, the remaining people may be not as familiar with your facility or operation. “More vigilance – because there might not be as many eyes as normal – is important.”

It’s key to try and help reduce the stress that your employees are experiencing, according to Moilanen. “Communication is a big issue now, more than it’s ever been. Share a little more information; it will go a long way. Give your staff a good overall sense of what’s going on. Keep your team connected and in the loop, even employees that have been furloughed.”

This webinar, moderated by NBAA Western regional representative Phil Derner, is just one in a series of educational opportunities NBAA has planned for the coming weeks. Learn more, register for upcoming webinars and view recordings of past webinars on the NBAA News Hour site.