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Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 9:47 am

The recently revealed role of private COVID discussions in the cockpit in the case of the bizarre PIA crash came as no big surprise to me.

Overall, a worrying combination of factors endangering flight safety results from the Corona pandemic:
- pilots getting a lot less flying practice than usual
- pilots returning to service being faced with an array of cumbersome additional hygiene procedures at the airport and onboard
- pilots constantly flying under the risk of being quarantined at the desination (in particular internationally)
- pilots possibly already having suffered salary or benefits cuts
- pilots being under enormous pressure because they might lose their jobs or be at risk of (further) salary cuts
- and of course, private worries / distractions due to Corona

The same obviously applies to other professions as well, notably flight attendants, maintenance workers and ATC.

What does everybody think? Is flying extra dangerous these days - and will it remain so for the foreseeable future?
Am I cured? Slept 5 hours on last long-haul flight...
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Re: Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:16 am

Flying isn't dangerous if everyone involved adheres to the proper procedures and protocols. However most of these were drawn up without the foresight of this pandamic. For example: additional hygiene procedures can indeed be time-consuming which in turn can put a strain in actual flighttimes. So it now needs to be factored in during planning/scheduling before dispatch. As for pilots I think the 'sterile cockpit' standard is a good example that could be expanded upon for maintaining focus during flight.
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Re: Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:34 am

I'm not a pilot nor do I live with one, but I think all those points are valid. Pilots are supposed to be mainly sane, thinking, responsible people who take care of themselves and everyone around them - but they are still human. And human mind can do unpredictable things when placed under long periods of stress.

Intercontinental travel is as good as dead, probably for several years to come. Intra-continental travel will be only limited, and at certain times even on complete stand-still, also for several years to come. Right now I really cannot think of any other profession, with a murkier outlook than anything aviation -related, especially pilots. Those gals and guys have trained for a profession that they love doing for a number of reasons. Now suddenly there's way too many pilots and way too many planes out there to carry the fraction of the passengers that used to fly. Flying becomes a rarity, and therefore pretty much every pilot is under a constant stress for being laid off, or the company going out of business.

And just imagine all those young people who are in the middle of their privately funded 100k -training programs to become pilots. Guaranteed to be unemployed after certification.

This whole COVID-19 is a global tragedy, that will change everything, possibly for good. We might be even just in the beginning, this could get far worse, and in fact it is getting worse with each passing day. Everything that we know, we like, are used to, our entire way of life is suddenly questionable.

On that note, yes I can see this having an impact on flight safety. I can also see things going wrong on the ground, routines and processes will start slippin due to much less traffic, "I'll just quickly drive across the runway because I haven't seen a plane land since Monday, the tower doesn't mind I'm sure...".
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Re: Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:43 pm

With all the outbreaks and "hot spots" we hear about, none of them seem to have started on a plane. Sure there were some very early on, but not anymore.
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Re: Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:07 pm

PlaneInsomniac wrote:
- pilots possibly already having suffered salary or benefits cuts

If a 20% pay cut determines pilot competence and safety, that person is unfit to be a pilot. Period. We expect 717 captains making $235/hr to follow procedures as well as 777 captains making $350.

If commercial pilots can't follow hygiene procedures they need to find a new career. (The same is going to be true of nurses, doctors, dental hygienists, etc.) I think they're higher-functioning and more adaptable than for which you give them credit. Flying is among the most heavily rules-based professions there is. They can handle some additional rules.
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Re: Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:40 pm

There are some serious questions raised by Covid-19 and aviation safety. One of the great horrors with Covid-19 is that a person can be infected and asymptomatic ot in the early stages of infection and infect others. For airline staff that can be from each other, persons they interact with on the ground outside of flights and passengers.

I know of a situation where a person in transit in April from JFK to Australia via Doha they when the got to Doha, started to have signs of Covid-19 infection, including loss of taste. When the got home in Australia, they were tested and found to be infected. Who knows how many people she infected while still in NYC, or on her flights, at the airports including cabin crew and pilots.

On Thursday, a girlfriend of my co-worker flew DL JFK-Lima, Peru. He went to see her off at the airport.and while about the only international flight at that time of the day, there were 100's on line for the flight for check in, limited staff to take care of them. The crowd at the airport suggests a crowded flight that was many hours long and thus a higher risk of infection, Peru requires all international passengers to strict no leaving the room quarantine in a designated hotel for 14 days.
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Re: Does COVID-19 pose a threat to global aviation safety?

Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:09 pm

Pilots and Flight Attendants have a lower infection rate than the general public, significantly so. From a COVID standpoint it is very safe. Now the other safety issues the OP raised due to stress and worry and job losses is in fact a real human factor that will impact safety.

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