We are all well aware that aviation has been particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic as demand for air travel plummets and governments around the world take increasingly dramatic steps to “flatten the curve” by reducing the number of people potentially exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
We also understand that the coronavirus crisis is much bigger than aviation. Life around the world has been disrupted on an unprecedented scale. People everywhere are struggling with fear and uncertainty as experts rush to understand how the coronavirus spreads and why COVID-19 is an inconvenience for some and fatal for others.
But emerging from the crisis are stories of kindness and generosity, of neighbors looking out for neighbors, and of communities working together to see that no one falls through the cracks. It may sound like a contradiction, but in this period of obligatory “social distancing,” working together is our best bet when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Follow the recommendations of public health authorities for yourself and for those around you, particularly the elderly and individuals with other underlying health issues.
Turning back to aviation, Flight Safety Foundation has urged governments and civil aviation authorities to act with urgency and to cooperate with each other as travel restrictions and other measures are put in place. Disjointed and fractured decision making can lead to unintended consequences and suboptimal choices that erode efficacy and increase the dangers of air travel.
A lack of coordination in implementing the U.S. ban on travel from Europe, for example, led to the unintended consequence of massive crowding at U.S. airports as U.S. citizens and permanent residents tried to return to the country from Europe — creating the very conditions that lead to virus transmission.
We need to understand what will work to control the spread of the coronavirus and what will not. Similarly, if we are going to disinfect every aircraft and airport, we need to do that in a way that will actually eliminate the threat of the virus as quickly as possible. Sharing information and best practices is key to the proper allocation of scarce resources in a time like this.
The Foundation strongly recommends that all governments and leading aviation organizations join the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) and make available central points of contact for the latest updates, information sharing and decision making. Airlines and airports around the world are taking extraordinary measures to clean and sterilize airport facilities and aircraft between flights and are implementing procedures that in many cases exceed World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
The situation, of course, is changing day by day and hour by hour. We will get through this by working together and understanding exactly how the virus is spread so it can be eliminated. We urge everyone — passengers, carriers, crews, regulators, controllers, airports, and maintenance personnel — to closely follow the guidance and recommendations issued by WHO and ICAO, and by leading health agencies like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We need to act quickly to support efforts to stop the spread of the virus for the good of everyone. And we need to work to get our aviation system back up and running once the dangers have passed. It should also be emphasized that the coronavirus generally does not affect the safety of flight itself. Once we get this system back up and running, airports, aircraft and air travel will remain as safe as they ever were, and the sooner we can get life back to normal, the better.