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Return-to-flight guides for pilots, aviation businesses

As we progress through the COVID-19 pandemic and states modify social distancing restrictions, many aviation operators can begin to reopen, and formerly grounded pilots can return to flight. To aid in this process, AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Institute have created two guides to help operators and pilots facilitate a safe return to operations.

Photo by Chris Rose.

The Return-to-Flight Proficiency Plan for pilots, sponsored by Hartzell Propeller, includes profiles for VFR and IFR pilots and is designed to give a clear, step-by-step approach to refreshing knowledge and sharpening skills that degrade after a period of inactivity, such as grounding due to local quarantine orders. Proficiency degrades progressively the longer a pilot remains inactive, and the guide reminds pilots to expect a different level of performance after extended time on the ground.

Either rusty pilots or dormant aircraft can be problematic. In combination, they present an expanded risk to aviation safety. AOPA’s guidance takes these factors into consideration and aims to help ease the transition to reopening while maintaining a high standard of safety.

The COVID-19 Flight Operations Guide is designed to help flight schools, flying clubs, FBOs, and other aircraft operators move “from risk ‘avoidance’ to risk management.” The guide provides factors to consider when making the decision to open and offers suggestions on how to do so carefully while monitoring for signs of sustained operational wellness.

“AOPA recognizes operators have some difficult choices to make under unprecedented circumstances,” said Richard McSpadden, executive director of the Air Safety Institute. “The COVID-19 guide offers them a framework for how to assess their situation and then some suggestions on steps they can take to resume and sustain operations.”

Alyssa J. Miller

Alicia Herron

ASI Aviation Writer
Aviation writer Alicia Herron joined the AOPA Air Safety Institute in 2018. She is a multiengine-rated commercial pilot with advanced ground and instrument flight instructor certificates. Alicia is based in Los Angeles and enjoys tailwheel flying best.
Topics: Training and Safety

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