The National Business Aviation Association has welcomed news that the US Department of the Treasury has begun making payments to many of the small and mid-sized general aviation air-carriers, including FAR Part 135 charter operators struggling with the unprecedented financial challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 20th, Treasury made the first payroll support program payments to approved applicants, among them many Part 135 charter operators. All funds provided under the program can be used only for the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits. The program was launched following implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27.
NBAA has strongly advocated for general aviation air carriers as Treasury implemented the payroll support program. In a Mar. 31 letter, the association explained to Treasury that initial guidance on the payroll support program presented challenges for general aviation businesses, as specific requirements were structured for the major scheduled airlines. On April 10, the department issued guidance responding directly to the association’s concerns, and providing essential flexibility for general aviation air carriers seeking payroll support.
West Palm Beach, Florida:
By Paul Eden
Early in April, global business aviation flying fell to as little as 20% of its 2019 rates for the same period. Depending on location, those rates subsequently increased, so that today, activity is typically down by between 50 and 70% compared with last year’s figures.
For Dorothea Henderson, Vice President Business Aviation & Digital Solutions, Collins Aerospace, this might then be an easy time. With a suite of well-established digital solutions, including the ARINCDirect Flight Operations System (FOS) and flight planning products, in their portfolio and considerably reduced demand, Henderson and her team ought to be relaxing in lockdown.
In reality, she says while the products are performing exactly as advertised, she and her team are reacting to requirements of critical importance that they could never have envisaged, even just two months ago.
“When the coronavirus crisis began we were bombarded with questions from our customers. ‘Where can we fly? We’ve heard this airport is closed.’ ‘We’ve heard we have to fly around this country, can you help us?’ It was overwhelming. There was no one place they could go for the information.
From Alaska to the Cayman Islands, Ross Aviation’s FBO network is handling high levels of humanitarian and relief flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of these flights are carrying critical medical supplies and require expedited handling in order to ensure their much-needed cargo clears any necessary regulatory hurdles as it enters the United States, so those supplies can quickly continue on to their final destinations.
The company’s FBO teams in Alaska at both their Fairbanks and Anchorage facilities, handle multiple relief flights each day from both private and charter operators - particularly from Asia. As a result, they have gained a high degree of knowledge regarding travel restrictions and quarantine procedures, as well as United States Customs and Border Patrol policy.
They are now using their knowledge during this critical time to assist trip support teams in expediting their processing while making sure all necessary regulations are complied with properly.
The National Business Aviation Association has unveiled a first-of-its-kind partnership to pair the assets available through the association’s Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (HERO) database with the COVID-19-coordination capabilities of the American Hospital Association (AHA).
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said, “Business aviation is uniquely positioned to provide assistance to the citizens, companies and communities grappling with the COVID-19 crisis. Our HERO database will connect supplies and services with hospitals across the country, including those in small towns and rural communities. We thank the American Hospital Association for coordinating with us, to ensure we reach the people most in need.”
“As the women and men in America’s hospitals and health systems heroically fight COVID-19 on behalf of their patients and communities, the hospital field is exploring all options to increase production and distribution of much needed personal protective equipment,” said Michelle Hood, AHA executive vice president and chief operating officer.
In late March, Duncan Aviation had begun social distancing at work to prevent potential spread of COVID-19 and began looking to acquire face masks for use by team members when they absolutely had to work together in close quarters, like an aircraft flight deck, for a short period of time.
It became obvious that mask supplies were depleted and that health care workers and those working directly with the public in service roles didn’t have enough masks to meet their anticipated needs. Duncan Aviation’s interior and upholstery teams reached out to a local hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, and asked for help in designing a mask, as well as advice on what the company could do to support hospitals during this time of need.
Duncan Aviation Upholstery Team Leader Kathy Wills works on sewing face masks to help prevent spread of COVID-19.
The hospital shared specifics and two different mask templates were created. Using the hospital's instructions, Duncan Aviation digitized the designs for cutting with its automated fabric-cutting machine, which usually cuts leather, sheepskin and other durable materials for use in business aircraft. Depending on the width of the material used for the masks, Duncan Aviation can cut materials for up to 900 masks every hour. To date, the company has cut more than 15,000 masks.
Jane Stanbury talks to Charles Porteous, President and Founder of Seefeld Group a “voice of the customer” consultancy helping aviation companies to make better decisions and grow revenues through enhanced understanding of their market, their customers and themselves.
Your company’s projects can last for months at a time, how have you continued with ongoing activity during this period?
While the world is on pause, we are in an unusual position as in many ways there is nothing significantly impeding the continuation of Seefeld Group’s research and analysis projects. In fact, initial evidence suggests that industry colleagues now have more time and want to share their views. It seems that despite the social distancing and travel restrictions the need to talk about the industry, and feel part of it, remains strong. There is a willingness to share opinions which is buoyed up by the isolation. Ironically, it’s turning out to be quite a good time to learn more about the industry and gather rich data.
How are you managing during the crisis – what has changed for Seefeld Group?
Surprisingly little has changed as we predominantly communicate remotely with our customers, survey respondents and partners across the globe.
The major change has been how we present findings. Our role is to really analyse the information, look for trends and interpret the voice of the customer.
This output and direction gives our clients the ability to make significant business decisions, whether it be about product development, marketing or launching a new service.
Whilst every industry has been impacted in one way or another during the COVID-19 crisis, aviation is arguably the most affected with thousands of grounded aircraft, uncertainty for future operations and fears for job security.
Private aviation, on the other hand, received a boost in demand during the first weeks of the pandemic, serving as a reliable option for those in need of repatriation due to commercial flight cancellations.
Moreover, private aviation is playing a key role for those still in need of domestic travel and for humanitarian reasons. And one specific type of aircraft is serving as the workhorse in times of crisis: the reliable and cost-effective turboprop.
The flexibility of these aircraft is their key advantage. Built for extreme conditions; ability to access isolated locations (and all types of runway surface); adapting to passenger transportation, cargo, or medevac.
WINGX Global Market Tracker:
According to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker published today, 80,000 business aviation sectors have been operated worldwide this month - through to the 21st - equating to 110,000 flight hours, a drop of 73% compared to same period of April 2019.
Business aviation activity represents 17% of all global fixed wing activity in April, almost double its historic share; scheduled aviation activity is down by well over 80%. As a reference, global cargo activity is the least affected sector, with specialist cargo operations down 20% this month.
All geographic regions have been severely impacted by COVID-19, with the largest markets in Europe and North America equally seeing more than 70% decline in business aviation flight sectors. Flights out of Africa have a similar trend, with South America down by 65%, Oceania relatively resilient at 55% below normal. However, there are no obvious signs of market recovery in regions of the world where lockdowns have been lifted, notably Asia. Domestic markets appear to be more resilient, intra-national flights in Sweden, China, Canada, Australia down around 50%.
Alex Macheras is an aviation analyst, broadcasting and discussing the world’s aviation news across international networks including BBC, Al Jazeera and LBC.
With a focus on the commercial airline side of the industry, Alex keeps viewers and listeners up to date with the latest updates from across the airline world, the challenges facing the industry, plus exclusive sit-down discussions aviation’s most prominent executives. Alex also focuses on the delivery and entry-into-service of new jets, and recently starred as the lead in a Channel 4 special “The World’s Most Luxurious Airline” taking viewers the behind-the-scenes world of an exclusive A380 delivery for Singapore Airlines.
He’s the editor of aviationanalyst.co.uk, and a columnist for the Gulf-Times, one of the region’s leading newspapers based in the heart of Middle Eastern aviation gateway.
We are going through the worse ever crisis in aviation. What are you concerned about for the industry?
It’s truly extraordinary what has happened to our industry in such a short amount of time.
Early in the year we had tensions between the US and Iran (in Iraq) when airspace over these two huge countries for overflight were declared off-limits for many airlines. The B737 MAX was fast-approaching almost a year of grounding over safety concerns.
Yet here we are, just a couple of months later and all of those troubles facing aviation seem minuscule compared with the crisis we face today. There are not enough airline cash reserves in the world for a pandemic of this scale. Never before have we seen the world effectively put itself into ‘sleep mode’ with travel bans, restrictions, lockdowns and curfews.
I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to following, collecting data and tracking the worldwide aviation response to this pandemic, particularly its impact on airlines. A key focus area I’m broadcasting on now is how government support is proving to be vital if any airline is going to survive - no matter what its financial health was before COVID-19.
Which countries and which airlines do you believe will recover first?
While passenger airlines are being devastated by Coronavirus, regional airline cargo carriers are keeping busy with not only increased freight loads, but meeting the challenges of keeping crews and other workers safe in the midst of moving them around the country and dealing with all the different stay-at-home orders.
Empire Airlines and Bemidji Airlines have seen an uptick in traffic but Empire’s passenger subsidiary Ohana, which flies for Hawaiian Airlines, has been challenged.
“We are very fortunate in how we are structured,” said President Tim Komberec, who also chairs the USA’s Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) and its 50-plus members. “Our passenger operations are suffering, but we our freight operation to spread the risk.”
Regional freight carriers can tell something is up by the changing loads, according to Minnesota-based Bemidji Airlines Vice President & Director of Operations Tracie Walter. “Whenever there is a snowstorm that locks everyone down, there is a spike in deliveries from online orders.”
We want to thank you for all the questions during the NBAA Webinar and for the emails that followed. Over the next couple of weeks, John and I will answer as many of the questions that were posted during the webinar as possible.
As a follow up, we are focusing first on cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting in order to respond to the vast number of questions and requests for this type of additional information.
This pandemic has currently caused a shortage of cleaning and sanitizing supplies throughout the world. Many of the supplies are going to hospitals, restaurants, and catering companies to insure public health. A common question is, “what should I use to clean and sanitize?” John and I have provided the CDC a list of approved sanitizing chemicals that can be used to kill the virus, and other bacteria, in our resource list at the end of this article.
We are all in this storm together. We hope this information will successfully answer some of your additional questions. Please look for more information on food safety for business aviation as John and I address more of your questions and food safety related topics.
By Paul Eden
East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) in the UK operates two H145s (Anglia One) from Norwich, and (Anglia Two) from Cambridge, covering Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, although its teams are occasionally tasked to Hertfordshire, Essex and Lincolnshire. Depending on the location of a patient and their medical needs, EAAA may also fly patients in to London for treatment.
An EAAA medical team assists in a COVID-19 patient transfer.
Its helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) coverage overlaps slightly with those of Magpas and the Essex and Hertfordshire Air Ambulance, so that if one HEMS team is busy, or offline, then the next closest and available is dispatched. The HEMS teams also work together on major incidents and share many of the same problems, including the sudden, unexpected need for PPE.
Often departing for a mission with limited information today, EAAA crews assume every patient they attend could have COVID-19 and must therefore be equipped with PPE.
By Jane Stanbury
Swiss charter company Vertis Aviation is well known for its boutique approach to arranging charters for captains of industry, international business executives and high net worth individuals. During COVID 19 however its focus has shifted in response to demand for repatriation and medevac flights.
"This meant we’d have to alter the routing while incorporating unfamiliar regulations into the plans. We found we had to quickly adapt to newly created authorities granting permits and ensuring we remain current with which airspace and airports are open, and what the restrictions on the ground may entail.”
Leona Qi, President of VistaJet Americas, oversees one of the world's largest business aviation operators.
She talks to Gear Up TV's Liz Moscrop about how she manages to combine repatriation, government and critical cargo flights, while working from home with two young children. And how she maintains her cool.
By Paul Eden
During March and April Europe’s ASL Group operated repatriation and other ‘essential’ flights, including medical missions and moving healthcare personnel, to 116 cities in 34 countries, carrying more than 1,200 passengers. “We’ve flown to Florida, New York, Norway, Turkey, South Africa, Morocco and more,” says Maxime Wauters, Group Safety Manager and pilot for the Group.
Based in Belgium and the Netherlands, the company operates a fleet of more than 40 business jets across its ASL Private Jet Services and JetNetherlands brands, together with the Embraer ERJ135 and ERJ145 with ACE, its corporate airline.
British nursing team delivered to Gibraltar by ACE ERJ
Fast expanding and forward leaning, the company is continuing its growth plans as far as lockdown allows. Wauters explains: “We’re expecting a couple of new aircraft to join the fleet and last week we started construction of a hangar and general aviation terminal at Liege. We’re also working on a very important sustainability and ecology project.”
The British Helicopter Association (BHA) has made a major achievement with the completion of a contract to facilitate freight and passenger transport by air in support of coronavirus response across the whole of the UK.
The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) - the UK Government contract management organisation - has worked tirelessly in recent days to get a simplified document produced which will ensure that payment is made from central Government funds within 14 days of the task being completed. BHA’s CEO Tim Fauchon is justifiably proud of this achievement in support of the UK helicopter industry - covering both members and non-members of the organisation he heads.
BHA, headquartered at Fairoaks Airport in Surrey, has over 180 helicopters available on call for this work, including 80 onshore and a further 100, which can be diverted from offshore work as required. All aircraft are in the fleets of CAA-approved operators who hold an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), a key safety aspect for this initiative. Every helicopter involved is covered by a Safety Management System, as well as all the other aspects of commercial flying required by the CAA. This ensures that every flight channelled through this coronavirus response scheme is being operated to the highest standards by professional pilots.
By Paul Eden
On Air Dining CEO Daniel Hulme was expecting a ‘game-changing’ 2020. “We just won a NetJets contract, our Farnborough facility was ramping up nicely and I was looking forward to a profitable, happy year.”
Now, although many staff are furloughed and the Farnborough unit is temporarily closed, Hulme is working hard to keep the company ticking over.
“Business aviation is about customer service and what we do is make sure the customer has what they want, when they want it. If I closed my doors I think it would damage my reputation, even though people might understand why. Keeping the operation going to some (lesser) degree shows the strength of the business.”
Hulme is confident business aviation will bounce back early and strongly. He says getting through the next three or four months is critical, but the company is ready to ramp back up in hours rather than days or weeks.
Meanwhile, On Air Dining has expanded its existing commitment to charity work. Operating exclusively out of London Stansted’s Diamond Hangar, the company has been creating and delivering hundreds of meals every day; 300 had gone out on the day Hulme spoke to Resilient Aviation, 500 the day before. If the requirement grows to ‘a few thousand a day’, he’s ready to ‘turn Farnborough back on’.
Disinfecting aircraft cabins has become the primary focus of Up and Airway Aviation’s specialist aircraft valeting and cleaning business these past months. On 27th February it took its first booking for the service.
“We didn’t take COVID-19 seriously then, but wisely we took the decision to make a significant investment in equipment, machinery and PPE," said Managing Director and owner Stefan Murphy.
"We bought loads of masks, oversuits, goggles, disinfectant sprays etc - all the things you’d need to operate safely during the outbreak so we were actually very well prepared. Then the virus got very serious and mindful of our customers flying long haul we sourced Universal Precaution Kits.”
Up and Away has just completed it 383rd disinfection.
It has also seen its customer base widen to cargo aircraft (crew amenities and rest areas must be disinfected with manpower uploading the cargo and cargo holds) NPAS, the National Grid, Police helicopters, Air ambulances and surveillance operators have also turned to Up and Away.
Andrew Nicholson, CEO, Osprey Flight Solutions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused greater disruption to the aviation industry than anything before and it will be several years before we know the full extent of this impact.
It is, understandably, demanding all of our focus right now. But the need to monitor other risks has not gone away. Flight operations are still being conducted, and at this critical time having a comprehensive picture, both in terms of Covid-19 and other risks, continues to be an essential component of the operational cycle.
We will get through this, and when we do, we need a fully operational aviation network as quickly as possible.
That means on the first day that flights resume, having a complete, global picture of aviation risk, without gaps caused by the singular focus that the pandemic has demanded.
Jeremy Parkin continues his series on home working. This week . . .
Amid the pandemic, many companies have been thrust into the realms of remote working at very short notice.
For some businesses, many roles just cannot be done off-site, for example, you can’t take a helicopter home and maintain it on your kitchen table. However, for many employers, having remote-working employees will become a way of life and may become more commonplace on the over side of the pandemic.
Trust your employees
You recruited each employee. You have business structures and documented processes in place. You have trained everyone in their role.
You measure performance, and that's independent of their physical location. Remember they are in a newly-found situation too, and they are probably more concerned about the longevity of their job than you are about how to manage them.
Business aviation technology leader Avinode Group is launching Avinode Aid, a goodwill initiative utilising Avinode technology to assist the aviation community in their relief efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Avinode Aid is providing a new service allowing operators to place available ambulance aircraft and helicopters on the Avinode platform for free.
Avinode Aid is accessible to all operators whether or not they are existing Avinode members. The initiative ensures ambulance-only aircraft are not open to passenger flight requests, so operators can respond to urgent medical transportation enquiries quickly and efficiently.
Brokers can easily find available fixed-wing air ambulances by filtering search results, whilst medical helicopters will be placed in a separate category in Avinode’s helicopter search.
New ambulance aircraft placed on the platform will be further promoted through Avinode’s email communications and social media.
On 17th March Latvia, together with the two other Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania, declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19.
All three countries closed their borders, effectively shutting down a significant part of all aviation activity. Exceptions were granted at Riga Airport, enabling a rush of evacuation and repatriation flights to get citizens back home, with ambulance operators being among the quickest to respond.
Over the past few weeks, many Latvian residents successfully used diverse options to get home.
According to new data from the Latvian Transport Ministry, business and general aviation accounted for up for 24% of such journeys.
Operator Profle: 2Excel Aviation: Strength in depth By Paul Eden
ERA, RAA hail a welcome relief By Keith Mwanalushi
Remote working for employees - turning challenge into opportunity By Jeremy Parkin.
Aerobility has announced its new Spirit of Aviation Challenge to support disabled people who might find self-isolation during the Covid-19 crisis tougher than most of us.
Open to anyone, the challenge is to build, launch and film a plane at home before uploading it to Aerobility’s open Facebook Group, ‘Spirit of Aviation’, using #FLYAEROBILITY. For some, this may be a paper plane, while for others it may get more technical, however the aircraft must be made from everyday materials found at home and all planes will be judged equally by Aerobility’s panel of experts for their ability in the air as well as their style and design.
The winner will get the chance to fly in a light aircraft with Squadron Leader Martin Pert, Team Leader of The Red Arrows while the winning plane will be showcased at Aerobility’s Headquarters in Blackbushe, Hampshire.
This is an ideal opportunity for the aviation industry to get behind the UK’s leading disabled flying charity, to help them get through these difficult times and to remain able to support the UK’s disabled flying community. Companies can invite their staff to get involved and can support the charity directly with much needed donations.
To help those taking part in the challenge, Aerobility provides an information pack which includes the basics of aerodynamics and schematics for different types of paper planes. There will also be ongoing daily content for continued learning and entertainment through Aerobility’s social media channels.