Feb. 23, 2021

The global pandemic has forced the business aviation community to reevaluate procedures to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members, and by employing best practices developed over this past year, the industry will be able to navigate the continued challenges of COVID-19 and emerge stronger, noted panelists during the NBAA GO Flight Operations Conference session: Post COVID-19: Best Practices for Crewmembers.

Moderated by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.’s Part 91 flight department’s Supervisor of Corporate Aircraft and Ground Transportation Scheduling Brian Abrahamson, the panel recognized the importance of a safety culture when employing best practices

“It all starts at the top with your safety culture,” said Jared Taylor, captain and safety manager at Johnson & Johnson. “When you have buy-in from the management level that everything is rooted in safety you will have the culture to implement the guidance and protocols that promote safety.”

A commitment to education also promotes safety noted Alexander Smith, director of nursing and health screening products, with aviation services firm MedAire.

“With respect to best practices, education is the key. Departments that are supported within their education needs get the most buy-in,” said Smith. “New measures and protocols are only effective when approached and adopted collectively and you can’t get that kind of buy-in unless people are educated and have their concerns addressed.”

With this foundation in place, operators can then consider the tactics that will ensure the safety of their crews, their passengers and their aircraft. The panelists addressed key areas including pilot proficiency, fatigue mitigation, the importance of testing and procedures for handling inflight COVID emergencies, as well as the adoption of pre-flight planning measures that recognize the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

“There is no better recommendation than to plan ahead,” said Dr. Paulo Alves, M.D., MSc., global medical director, aviation health, with MedAire. “This is a very volatile situation and things continue to change, so use all the tools available to you.”

Importantly, flight departments, regardless of size, must ensure that they maintain good airmanship. “Now is the time to slow down, to be extra deliberate and focus,” said Taylor. “Aviate, navigate and communicate. It’s no good staying safe from COVID if you know you don’t fly the airplane safely.”

Review NBAA’s resources regarding COVID-19 protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.