May 1, 2020

For the first time ever, NBAA’s International Operators Conference (IOC2020), one of business aviation’s most highly anticipated annual events, launched today on NBAA GO, the association’s new virtual professional development platform. The global COVID-19 pandemic required the conference to be presented in a virtual format, known as Virtual IOC2020.

“NBAA GO gives us an opportunity to pivot and reflect the needs of our community during this global pandemic, while keeping participants updated with the great information that the conference is known for,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of international and regulatory affairs and International Operators Committee staff liaison.

Virtual IOC2020 will be presented as a weekly event offered every Thursday at 11 a.m. EDT through July 30, featuring a mix of live sessions and regional updates. Four of the traditional conference’s most exciting and interactive sessions – medical, customs, regulatory and avionics updates – will be held live. The regional updates will be recorded in advance but offer opportunities for live Q&A following the recording.

For the Virtual IOC opening keynote held on April 30, Bill Dolny, CEO of MedAire, and Dr. Paulo Alves, global medical director of aviation health at MedAire, provided an overview of the COVID-19 crisis and its implications for business aviation.

While inflight emergencies, infectious disease, safety and security, illness at destination, natural disasters and political unrest were previously understood to be the top risks for international operators, the paradigm has changed, according to the speakers. What industry professionals once knew about safety and security in a specific region is now different.

For example, MedAire has observed an increased focus on fitness to fly – for both pilots and passengers – and mental health referrals. Dolny also noted the top challenges for business aviation in the future will include:

  • Travel restrictions and local regulations
  • Screening, testing and mitigation
  • Inflight safety considerations
  • New security realities and risks
  • Contingency planning at destination
  • Disinfection
  • PPE/new safety and medical equipment

Alves shared best practices that business aircraft operators can implement now, and he encouraged conference participants to have appropriate PPE on the aircraft and implement screening processes for passengers and crewmembers. Temperature checks, for example, can be helpful, but are not foolproof.

Most COVID-19 testing procedures only prove that a person does or does not have the virus at the moment. Antibody testing might show whether a person has had the virus in the past, but it’s unclear how long viral shedding occurs. When transporting a person demonstrating symptoms – or one who has tested positive but is not exhibiting symptoms – extreme measures should be taken and use of an air ambulance service is strongly encouraged.

Regarding disinfection, the most important consideration is to understand your risk, according to Alves. If proper measures have been taken – for example practicing social distancing and using PPE and screening procedures – then risk of exposure is very low and traditional cleaning measures are probably appropriate. However, Alves cautioned attendees about crew-to-crew transmission, urging crewmembers to practice social distancing to the extent possible.

The new normal for business aviation will include new preflight and inflight policies and procedures, as well as new policies and procedures at destinations. Dolny encouraged attendees to conduct thorough pre-mission planning and risk assessments to identify applicable travel restrictions, understand specific risks and mitigate those risks.

“We need to be continually thinking about how we will evolve from screening to testing to whatever verification requirements are coming,” said Dolny, who urged operators to keep their own safety management systems updated. Operators should look at gaps in risk mitigation programs and leverage appropriate resources to prepare for the new operating environment.

NBAA and its International Operators Committee encourage conference participants to consider this an interactive event and to share experiences and lessons learned at Virtual IOC on social media by using #NBAAGO.

Virtual IOC2020 participants can receive up to three points toward Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) credit for attending the entire event, or 0.25 points for each session.

Learn more about NBAA GO at nbaa.org/go, and register for NBAA’s Virtual IOC2020.