As the aviation industry flies through uncharted airspace during the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is providing updated guidance for operators of business aircraft. Since business aviation is a sub-segment of the overall general aviation sector, the information on rapidly changing regulations, policies and procedures translates easily to all operators.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has produced a series of unique and challenging circumstances that have implications for business travel and other decision-making,” said Dan Hubbard, NBAA senior vice-president, communications, in an interview with Flying. “NBAA offers this resource, and several others, on a dedicated webpage nbaa.org/coronavirus to help our members navigate those challenges at this rapidly changing situation.”
Aircraft operational considerations concerning the Coronavirus are spelled out specifically on a page dedicated to helping mostly international operators stay on top of the fast pace at which regulations, policies and procedures are changing.
For background, on January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and, on March 11, 2020, WHO characterized the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic. As this situation rapidly escalates, NBAA provides the following guidance from US government agencies for operating restrictions and precautionary procedures that should be observed for travel to, from, or within each region of the world.
US Arrival Restrictions
Effective at 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 13, 2020, the entry into the US of all non-US resident aliens, with certain exceptions, who have been physically present in the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, was suspended. Crew members and relatives of US citizens are exempt. For further reading on this, review the US Customs and Border Patrol Carrier Liaison Program Bulletin.
On March 16, 2020, a similar restriction went into effect for non-US resident aliens who have been physically present in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their attempted entry into the United States. As with the prior arrival restriction, crew members and relatives of US citizens are exempt. Review the March 14, 2020, Presidential Proclamation for more information.
NBAA reports that flights from a number of “Restricted Countries” carrying persons who have recently traveled from, or were otherwise present within, the following areas face landing restrictions. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) passenger arrival protocols require screen-ing at airports where enhanced public health services and protocols have been implemented. Those areas include Peoples Republic of China (excludes Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, and the EU Schengen Region (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ireland) and the United Kingdom.
The United States is now using “enhanced traveler arrival protocols” as part of a layered approach used with other public health measures already in place to detect arriving travelers who are exhibiting overt signs of illness. “Related measures include reporting ill travelers identified during travel to appropriate public health officials for evaluation to slow and prevent transmission and spread of COVID-19. Flights carrying passengers who recently visited a restricted country must land at one of the arrival airports where enhanced public health services and protocols have been implemented,” NBAA said. Those arrival airports are:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (KJFK)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (KORD)
- San Francisco International Airport (KSFO)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (KSEA)
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (KHNL)
- Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (KATL)
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (KIAD)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (KDFW)
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (KDTW)
NBAA notes that “a person is considered to have recently traveled from, or otherwise been pre-sent within a restricted country if that person departed from, or was otherwise present within, a listed country within 14 days of the date of the person’s entry or attempted entry into the United States. Crew and flights carrying only cargo (i.e., no passengers or non-crew) are excluded from the applicable measures outlined in this notice.” Review the full Department of Homeland Security Federal Notice here.
As to the safety of crews, NBAA advises the following guidance. “Anyone on layover should stay in their hotel rooms to the extent possible, limit their activities in public, and practice social distancing. Social distancing means avoiding crowded places, not going to mass gatherings and generally staying about six feet from others, when possible. Traveling individuals should also pay attention to their health at all times and remain in communication with their employer’s occupational health program. If anyone develops a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, they should immediately self-isolate and be excluded from work on flights until cleared by public health authorities,” the association said. They added that crew members with high-risk exposures to COVID-19 may also need to be excluded from work until no longer at risk for becoming infectious. A person is considered high-risk if exposed to a sick household member or intimate partner or providing care in a household to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
For any operator planning an international flight now, NBAA recommends some things one may not normally consider. These include not just looking at runway length and fueling capabilities, but also considering what the best options are for available medical facilities. Also, NBAA ad-vises that all travelers should notify the US embassy in the destination country of their travel plans. Using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) pro-gram to convey this information enables the local US embassy or consulate to contact registered US citizens and nationals in the event of an emergency and offer assistance in certain circumstances.
Once at your destination, NBAA’s experts recommend taking steps to facilitate a potential emergency departure. “First, although the appeal of a cozy hotel bed or nice meal is strong after an international flight, pilots should order and wait to receive fuel upon landing. Make sure you have enough fuel to fly away to a safe place. This is a good policy in almost any international or domestic location as any number of scenarios can hamper or prevent fueling when you need to depart immediately.”