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From the editor: Facing COVID-19From the editor: Facing COVID-19

Enduring a once-in-a-century pandemic

As I write this, it’s April 20, 2020, and the world is under siege by the coronavirus. The economic fallout has been severe, and the toll has so far reached 760,245 infected and 40,690 dead in the United States alone.
Turbine Pilot Intro
Screen images courtesy of Flightradar24

Unemployment surged past 22 million in the United States, where a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill was enacted, the stock market is rattled, and mandatory stay-at-home orders cover most states.

General aviation activity has been greatly affected, and for the latest news see AOPA’s coronavirus updates online (aopa.org/covid19). Thanks to AOPA’s efforts, medical and other certificates that would have expired have been granted exemptions by the FAA; another initiative would postpone any examinations.

Meanwhile, aviation fly-ins and other events have been canceled. To fight the effects of traffic downturns, a $100 million stimulus package offers relief to general aviation airports. Piper Aircraft and other businesses have been fighting the pandemic by manufacturing personal protective equipment, and individual pilots have helped out by flying much-needed medical equipment to hospitals.

In the turbine world, Wheels Up, a membership/on-demand company with a fleet of nearly 400 King Airs and Citations, formed Meals Up—an initiative it says will fly 10 million meals to the food-insecure.

One day the crisis will be over. Right now the top priority is taking measures against it.
Meanwhile, travel restrictions have severely curtailed flights to and from the United States and other nations. This, and the stay-at-home orders, have forced the airlines to park huge segments of their fleets. Fractional operations such as NetJets at one point had experienced increased demand for their airplanes as travelers sought alternatives to airline travel. But lest you think that private bizjets are somehow exempt from the international travel hassles experienced by the airlines, look no further than this issue’s “Beating the Clock” feature, which details two trips returning from South America. Owner-flown activity of all sorts has taken a big hit, including turbine flying.

As this is written there’s talk of wide-ranging domestic flight restrictions. That would only drag down an economy already pushed dangerously near recession. But it may be necessary to contain the virus.

It’s tempting to say that the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. But it isn’t. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic infected some 500 million people worldwide, and killed some 675,000 Americans. It caught us by surprise in a time when antiviral medicines weren’t available. The same thing has happened this time. We may have antiviral medicines, but none specific to COVID-19.

But one day the crisis will be over. Right now the top priority is taking measures against it. When the recovery inevitably comes, the rebound should hopefully take care of all else—including general aviation. Here’s hoping we are seeing a turnaround by the time you read this.

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Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.

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