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Pilots mobilized in 2020 for coronavirus relief efforts

PPE deliveries, flyover salutes, online training supported health care workers, communities

Aviators volunteered their resources in a variety of ways in 2020 to help combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Aviators giving back to communities

General aviation pilots have previously opened their hearts to fill critical supply roles and to provide a bridge to federal assistance after major natural disasters. However, the massive grassroots relief effort that began in March to support and honor health care workers on the front line of the pandemic has continued through December with no end in sight.

One of the earliest stories AOPA brought you was of Michigan Seaplane flight school owner Cran Jones, who, after learning that hospitals were critically low on personal protective equipment, came up with a plan to prototype, manufacture, and deliver clear face shields to medical professionals. More recently, pilots in Washington drew praise after flying 23,000 cloth face masks to nine different primary locations in two states. “We've been truly blessed to have some pretty amazing people join us in this effort and that has made a big difference,” said Sky Terry, a logistics coordinator with the West Coast General Aviation Response Plan.

Here’s a look back at pilots’ efforts to manufacture or deliver medical supplies.

Aircraft manufacturers pivot to health care needs

A face shield prototype is demonstrated after Michigan Seaplane owner Cran Jones formed a plan to manufacture and deliver much-needed clear face shields to front-line medical professionals. Photo courtesy of Cran Jones.

Shortly after the coronavirus breached the United States, the need for essential personal protective equipment and lifesaving ventilators surged. Airplane manufacturers, avionics specialists, and rocket scientists quickly changed gears by converting assembly lines to the production of face shields or dedicating research-and-development teams to pioneer stop-gap technology for medical ventilator systems.

Piper joins fight for coronavirus relief

Virgin Orbit launches lifesaving ventilator project

Tamarack manufactures medical masks in addition to winglets

Cirrus, Textron, others pivot to coronavirus relief

Zipline pitches drones for US coronavirus relief

More GA manufacturers join coronavirus relief efforts

NASA contributes to coronavirus fight

Front-line health care workers, others honored by aviators

Baltimore is visible from the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds cockpit in this image from an onboard video camera during a flyover May 2 to honor medical workers. Image from video courtesy of Staff Sgt. Cory Bush, U.S. Air Force.

The outpouring of support for medical professionals, law enforcement personnel, and citizens separated from their loved ones led to aerial flyovers and tributes that were organized as a visible salute to front-line workers and shut ins. Aerial demonstration teams from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds united to recognize “frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers” with flyovers in multiple cities. GA pilots also gave back to their communities with numerous flyovers plus a five-week, 90-city flight relay that honored essential workers across all 50 states.

California Skytypers spread messages of hope

Nation’s transportation workers lauded

Pilot’s flight plans draw messages of hope

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds salute COVID-19 responders

Military, GA flyovers continue to honor health care workers

From idea to overflight in 18 days

Florida pilots perform flyover for WASP Bernice ‘Bee’ Haydu

Operation SoCal Strong turns eyes skyward during Memorial Day morale salute

Pilots honor health care workers in 90 cities

David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.

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