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The Air Up There Podcast

General Aviation and COVID-19

Season 1, Episode 3
Published: Friday, September 4, 2020

The COVID-19 public health emergency has affected nearly every industry, and companies are trying to navigate the new normal of operating. General aviation is no exception. New businesses have cropped up to meet the demand for alternative forms of transportation. Innovations in pilot training have moved at lightning speed to provide quality, technical training solutions. Listen now to hear how private pilots are keeping their skills sharp, how the industry is working to accommodate new business, and how everyone is working to make sure the skies remain safe.

In this episode, you'll hear from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's (AOPA) Tom Haines, Jens Hennig of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Aviation International News' Matt Thurber, and Julie Boatman of Flying Magazine.

Read the show notes on our blog.

General Aviation and COVID-19

General Aviation and COVID-19

Transcript

John Croft:
Welcome to The Air Up There, a podcast about the wide, wide world of aviation. I'm John Croft.

Alison Duquette:
And I'm Alison Duquette. As we discussed in an earlier podcast, commercial air travel has been significantly affected by COVID-19. Suspended operations at select towers, and an urgent need to stop the spread originally brought the airline industry to a screeching halt. Airports are reporting they expect operations will be lower overall for a while. And even though business is beginning to resume, it's doing so slowly and under new circumstances while we all continue to deal with this national health emergency.

John Croft:
Yeah, Alison, what I learned from doing the interviews for this episode is that general aviation has been the exception. GA planes are being used as an alternative form of transportation, many times in lieu of commercial air travel. And if you look at the size of the cabins, you know you can fly with fewer people if you charter your own aircraft. And we're also saying that pilots are training very differently. In many cases, you can now train virtually on virtual air traffic controllers and virtual missions. And they're also looking at how they can do things like carry passengers more safely in a small cabin. One thing's for sure the industry has changed overnight.

Alison Duquette:
That's pretty cool, John. We may not have the answer to every question in this episode, but we will take a look at how this industry has been impacted and what will need to be done in order to adjust, adapt and overcome the situation. So what's in store for general aviation? John, you talked with a number of experts and insiders to find out the issues that have cropped up, and how the industry is maintaining operations and preparing for what's on the horizon?

John Croft:
I did. And the feedback was in some ways very counterintuitive. It's been enlightening to hear how general aviation continues to thrive and how pilots and operators have had to quickly adjust to the new normal.

Alison Duquette:
So let's hear John's interview now with Jens Hennig. Jens is with GAMA, the general aviation Manufacturers Association, and he's responsible for safety, security, and operations. So let's hear his thoughts about how COVID-19 has affected general aviation.

John Croft:
Hi Jens. Hey, thanks for joining us on this episode of The Air Up There; General Aviation and COVID-19. I always think of you as a data guy, you're heavily involved in a bunch of GA safety programs with the FAA, including the GA Joint Steering Committee. From where you sit, what does the data tell you about how COVID-19 has affected the various segments of the GA community? And more importantly, how are things looking right now?

Jens Hennig:
John, what we've been looking at since this pandemic started is a new data source. One of our member companies is FlightAware. I'm sure most people in aviation, at least for flying commercially as a passenger, but also many others use them as a resource. They and several other groups have been providing real-time data, day by day updates on the amount of flying going on in our industry. And it's been quite informative. If you look back over the past 16, 17 weeks, since this pandemic started, our industry has through almost a full cycle. Our lowest level of flying was the week of April 6th. And since then we've seen incremental return to flying. If you look at early April, again, we all remember how strange it was. Business jet flying was down almost 78%; turboprops, more than 50%; piston airplane sitting right at 49% down; and helicopter is about down one third.

Jens Hennig:
We just looked at the midyear data through the end of June. And the good news story is a lot of the operations have returned. Business jets, again, going from negative 78% to just negative 16%. So 84% of the flying that we did a year ago is occurring today. Turboprops, basically on par with operations, up 3% from our baseline, which was the two weeks leading up to the pandemic. Piston airplanes, obviously some seasonal differences there since the pre-pandemic days where the winter months, but flying is up as much as 33%. And on the helicopter side, again, we never really saw the dip in flying as much, because think about their operations, it's law enforcement, it's EMS, and the types of operation that were deemed essential in many ways. Their operations continued, and as of late June, they're flying is actually up compared to early March. So that's where we're sitting.

John Croft:
Mentioning GAMA members, what are manufacturers telling you about the impacts of COVID-19 on aircraft production, maintenance, flight testing, all the usual things that would seem to be impacted?

Jens Hennig:
GAMA produces official data. Once a quarter, we publish quarterly deliver your results. Piston deliveries, turboprops, business jets, and helicopters. The first quarter numbers, they're public. They're obviously a data point, but if you look back at the first quarter, again, ending March 31st, that was 10 or 11 weeks of near normal activities across the aviation industry in the broader economy of the world, so to say. And then come mid-March, suddenly everything's shut down. And we had two weeks of almost no operations. Stay-at-home orders across the world. Many places, nobody was going to work or just transitioning over to working from home. So overall airplane deliveries for the first quarter was down 20.9%; helicopters about 28.2%. If we transition over to the second quarter, if you look at, again, April 1st through June 30th, that was five, six, seven weeks of stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, international flying constraints and all those kinds of factors.

Jens Hennig:
The good news is we did see flying return, but in many cases there were furloughs and other activities that's going to affect those numbers. All of our members are making a push to get back to normal, since normal can be scribed these days. Aircraft deliveries are occurring. We're making a very big push to work within the restrictions that are in place, with health and safety in mind. The latest work that's underway is to look at how to deliver an export aircraft in and out of the United States and many other countries, where normal travel is not occurring, but there are mechanisms here in the United States that's governed by the Department of State and Homeland Security to allow aircraft deliveries to be continuing. And they are occurring, it's just we're operating with a new rule book.

John Croft:
Interesting. Can you give any examples of what a delivery looks like now compared to before?

Jens Hennig:
Well, it's working within the definition of what is essential. The good news is, for most countries, aviation, air crew and pilots have been deemed essential. And from the perspective on being able to go and deliver an aircraft, bringing it across border and so forth. There are a few new steps that do take place and we're working our way through that. And we're very actively working from the U.S. perspective with different embassies, the Department of State, Homeland, and others, to get guidance, to make sure that when we do deliveries of aircraft, we adhere to the procedures that they have put into place with guidance from CDC to do it properly, to do it safely and so forth.

Jens Hennig:
The additional steps that manufacturers are taking is shifting as much as possible over to remote activities. Several of our members have transitioned over to doing many of the things that were done in person; signing documents, inspecting aircraft and so forth, to do that using digital tools. The other thing that a number of manufacturers do as part of bringing customers onto their facilities is leveraging local health experts to do testing for the coronavirus, to make sure that when they interact with persons, all appropriate measures to keep everybody involved with that transaction safe and appropriate.

John Croft:
We see as so much happening day to day at the FAA, that is different. Just like everybody else. It's an interesting learning going on and developing. Jens, I can't thank you enough for sitting with us today and giving us all this great information. So hope to talk to you again soon.

Alison Duquette:
So we just heard from Jens, who definitely had the industry point of view. And now, we're going to hear John's conversations with three experts and get their inside-pilot view of what's going on, both domestically and internationally in general aviation.

John Croft:
So now we'll talk to Tom Haines, editor-in-chief at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Probably best known to us pilots, is a source of two of the best and most informative magazines in GA right now, AOPA Pilot Magazine and Flight Training Magazine.

John Croft:
Hi Tom, thanks so much for participating in our podcast. Tom, like me, you've been a GA Pilot for more years than you'd probably like to admit. But on the positive side, that means you've pretty much seen it all. So tell me, what are you seeing in the GA sector, both as part of your job and personally, as you fly your Beechcraft Bonanza around the D.C. area, now the COVID-19 has changed so much of our lives?

Tom Haines:
It has been phenomenal. And it's a great question that you're asking. I'm going to start with the second half first in that talk about my personal situation, I did take my Bonanza out on Saturday and you know, the area over here. So I kind of went around the northern side of the special flight rules area, just under the Class Bravo and went over to eastern to [Sugarbuns 00:08:42] and had breakfast. A nice outing, and I was hoping when I got there, it would be super busy. There would be pilots all over the place, but it was disappointed, because it was very quiet. There was a little activity at the airport, but the restaurant was not busy at all. But then I came back home through the corridor, special flight rules area. And I got to say it was busy, there was a lot of airplanes out. And so I was at least relieved to see that by the time I got back to Frederick, there was a lot of traffic around.

Tom Haines:
And I've seen that other times, general aviation traffic has actually been doing pretty well. It's been amazing how quickly this affected us all. AOPA back in middle March, that weekend of the 14th and 15th of March, we just had some back and forth communication among our senior staff about, "Hey, what does this mean? It really sounds like we're on the verge of some sort of a request to shut down. People stay at home." And by Monday we were in full mode of figuring out how do we shut down this business and send people home.

Tom Haines:
And by end of day, Monday, really we'd send a message out to staff. "Don't come in on Tuesday, unless you absolutely have to." And of course, within a couple of days, then we saw the governor issue basically stay-at-home orders for non-essential businesses. And at AOPA, we're very fortunate, in that, we had great technology backbone and the ability for the entire company … We have 250-ish employees to work from home, and it's worked very well. With my team, with our magazines, as you said, we have able to prep all the copies of the magazine without issue. All of our online content or video we've done from home. And it's really worked quite well, but it has been certainly a change of pace from a professional working level. But also, as you pointed out from an aviation standpoint, operations went off a cliff in March and through April, but then we really started starting to see things come back.

John Croft:
What are you hearing from your members? What do you hear in the emails and online in terms of comments? What are people saying?

Tom Haines:
It's all over the map, but I mean, I think the number one thing was the reality that set in very quickly, that we recognized it right away, and was confirmed within hours from calls we began getting from members was, "what am I going to do for my flight review? We've been told to stay at home and I've got a flight review scheduled for next week." Or, "my medical is about to expire. How am I supposed to go get my medical? Is it safe to go out and visit my doctor?" Or, "my doctor has been just told that they can only focus on basically COVID sort of patients." It was very perplexing at first. We, of course were immediately in communication with government, as first staff in Washington, talking with the FAA. And worked closely with the FAA. Was very rewarding to have the FAA receptive to our messaging and to understand what the issue was.

Tom Haines:
It took a while. We were hoping it was going to be like a three or four day or a week process. It was a couple of weeks, but we finally did get a Special Federal Aviation Regulation from the FAA that provided relief for a lot of pilots. So it was helpful, and then we've had a second revision of that because a lot of the provisions have expired, June 30th. And so now we have a revision to that. But we still get a lot of questions at AOPA about those kinds of things related to, "how do I fly in this environment?" And there's still a great debate in some circles about whether people should be flying. I don't know what you're hearing, but we hear that sometimes.

John Croft:
Yeah. Tough situation because you have to balance what the regulations were meant to do there in the first place, with how you can stretch them and still maintain safety. And speaking of safety, are you seeing anything in particular with safety that has been impacted or has been heightened by the situation with COVID-19?

Tom Haines:
There's a lot of discussion about how to fly safely in this environment. About social distancing, you can't do that on a little airplane, sitting next to your flight instructor, for example, how do you do flight training, or even if you want to go fly with your friends, what's the appropriate way to do that? From an accident standpoint, we have seen, unfortunately, the accident rate not trending off as much as you might think it would, given the low numbers. So we've seen more accidents than we'd certainly like to see, some of them related to the idea that people haven't been out flying. And so we've put out a lot of resources on our website about how to return to proficiency. We have a guide for example, on our website about how to return to proficiency if you've been off from flying for a period of months now, in some cases. So we've got a lot of resources on our website about that, and people have been taking advantage of that.

John Croft:
So when you look across at your members, do you see this as just being a lag in getting back to what we saw as a normal before, will things change? Will we get more different types of aircraft? Well, people want to fly in smaller groups and will that drive smaller size charter aircraft of being much more active in role of moving people around?

Tom Haines:
I think the general public, they're going to use charter more. I mean, we've seen a big uptick in charter. And from what I understand, from some of the operations I've seen and people I've talked to is, that some 50% of the customers coming in to charter these days, are new to general aviation. So they haven't experienced it before, but they want an alternative to going on the airlines. And so they're starting to use charter, which is a great sign. And some of them, even when an airline travel becomes more practical, some of them are going to stick with a charter, those who can afford it. And so we may see the charter business actually see a bit of an uptick, and I think training is going to change. And it needs to change. We're training pilots so much like we did in the seventies when I learned to fly still today.

Tom Haines:
And so it kind of needs a kick in the pants from a technology standpoint. And so I think flight schools are finally adapting to this idea of virtual learning and putting content online or directing students to use online resources more than they have in the past, using simulation, where an instructor can instruct a student who's in a simulator and the instructor isn't even in the same room or building or even town, you can do it virtually. And so that allows a student to go in by himself into the simulator and still have an instructor basically see what he's doing and understanding what's happening and being able to coach him, even though they're not sitting there side by side. So that helps safety and it helps the student continue to fly, not just in a COVID environment, but that can happen even after COVID is less of an issue on bad weather days and that sort of thing.

Tom Haines:
So it just opens up opportunities. I think we'll start to see some of that kind of thing become routine. I think checking in on apps and doing virtual pre-flights. I think that sort of thing are going to be a lot more common after this. We've put out a ton of extra content through our web channels. AOPA Air Safety Institute has been creating a lot of content. We've done a lot more podcasts and other organizations and companies have as well to help both keep pilots kind of entertained and keep their head in aviation, which is an important part of proficiency, but also to actually transfer skills virtually and that sort of thing, and really good information about the usual things that we all struggle with; takeoffs and landings and weather decision making and all that kind of stuff. A lot of new tools out there that are really immersive.

John Croft:
Do you see general aviation now getting on board more with data and recording data and putting it all together to see collectively how we're doing and make things better, safety-wise?

Tom Haines:
Yeah, we actually did a piece just this week about using point of view cameras, for example, as a teaching tool and recording sessions, and then going back and letting the student, who may be struggling with a particular issue, see how well they did and get a visual look at what they're seeing, both in the cockpit and from outside of what the airplane is actually doing as in relative to the runway. For example-

John Croft:
Tom, can you explain what you mean by that point of view camera? What is that exactly?

Tom Haines:
Yeah. Like a GoPro or a Garmin VIRB, cameras that you can mount inside the airplane or outside the airplane or both. And it allows you to see, let's say, the cockpit environment over your shoulder, for example. So that you can see what was happening at that moment. Meanwhile, you also got a camera outside as you're approaching the runway and you're having trouble with the flare, for example. And so you're flaring too high. And so you can see out the window and come back and watch it later, what you're seeing there. And then you see a point of view camera from say, the belly of the airplane that allows you to see how close to the runway you are or how high the nose is, for example, in the flare.

Tom Haines:
And it can really help drive home the idea of how much flare do you really need or why it is that you're flaring so late. Those kinds of things, and can make a big difference in your progress, dealing with the difficult phases of flight like landings, which all students struggle with, particularly primary students. Getting that landing down, can take a very long time and that can help speed that along.

John Croft:
Hey Tom, we really appreciate everything you've told us today and it's been fascinating and we look forward to all of, particularly, the safety initiatives that AOPA has going is great stuff for general aviation. Thank you.

Tom Haines:
All right, John, great talking with you. Good luck with the podcast.

John Croft:
Alison, it was really cool hearing the talk about these new technologies and new cameras and augmented reality, virtual reality, and the safety benefits we're going to get from GA. To me, it's a lot like what you're seeing on automobiles with the backup cameras and the side cameras. What do you think about those technologies? Do they make you feel safer on the road?

Alison Duquette:
Yeah, I sure do feel safer having that type of technology in my car.

John Croft:
And that's what it's all about. It's all in the name of safety, Alison.

Alison Duquette:
And speaking of safety, did you know that if you're traveling with a drone that you need to pack it safely, here's how.

Alison Duquette:
Taxi. Travel with your drone as carry-on luggage and remove batteries. Drones are expensive. They're also fragile. If you're planning to travel with your drone, it's best to avoid packing it in checked baggage. Unless airline rules require you to do so. And that drones battery, it's one of those lithium batteries you always see on the 'do not put' in check baggage list. It can explode and pose a very real fire risk. Pack battery safely by taking them out of the drone and place them securely in your carry-on.

Alison Duquette:
For more information, visit faa.gov/go/packsafe, and be sure to check your airlines rules too.

Alison Duquette:
Welcome back. Next up is Matt Thurber. He's got to give us his insights into general aviation.

John Croft:
We're now talking to Matt Thurber, editor-in-chief of Aviation International News Publications. Matt, thanks for joining us on this episode of The Air Up There, generally variation, and COVID-19 not. Matt, I happen to see a Facebook post recently where you and another gentleman were flying your Piper aircraft, and you were both wearing medical type face masks. Despite this, you both look to be pretty happy. So tell me what that's like. Are you seeing widespread use of face masks when you're out flying? Both personally and for your job.

Matt Thurber:
John, that particular flight was my neighbor's very first flight in a small airplane, and I've been meaning to get him up for a while because he's expressed some interest in learning to fly. So it was an opportunity to let him get his hands on the controls and see what it was like. But I had been a little bit concerned about the proper protocol for disease prevention these days.

Matt Thurber:
And it seems like most flying schools are going with masking both the instructor and the student, or pilots who are flying together are both wearing masks. And I'm seeing a lot of that, not just on Facebook, but even at our local airport, people are being very careful. The FBO lounge isn't opened. You have to call the fuel truck for fuel. I think everyone's being very cautious and we basically wore the masks all the way from home to the airport during the flight and back because I drove him in my car. So we just kept them on the entire time. I didn't really find it uncomfortable. It didn't affect the microphone on my headset and I didn't feel like I was having any trouble breathing during the flight. And we had a great flight.

John Croft:
Can you play it back for me a little bit, how things went starting in say February and how they are doing today in terms of general aviation in your area?

Matt Thurber:
Absolutely things seem to be fairly normal right up until early March. And then as soon as the World Health Organization declared this a pandemic, things just completely stopped. Nobody was flying at all. I saw a lot of flight schools shut down for a few weeks, but then restart operations with proper precautions in place. And what seems to be the standard protocol now for smaller airplanes, at least, is cleaning the airplane between flights, everybody wearing masks on board, very few flights with extra people, just riding along, if you're doing instruction, for example. The other thing I did notice is, at least at our airport, and some of the local airports, the tower is closed much more often than it used to be.

Matt Thurber:
Our tower right now is operating from nine o'clock to five o'clock. Some of the nearby airports have restricted hours as well. I think it's just because of not only precautions that they're taking, but also amount of traffic has diminished too. Although there are some days when it gets pretty busy and there have also been days where I wanted to shoot touch-and-go. They said, "Sorry, go somewhere else." We don't have enough people here today.

John Croft:
Very interesting. Well, Matt, I wanted to speak to you a little bit about your job because as you know, I'm pretty jealous of the work you get to do, especially when you're out flying jets and all kinds of aircraft all around the world for Aviation International News. I wanted to find out if that work is still going on? What's been the situation with AIN, and particularly with your flying and the flying that people are doing internationally?

Matt Thurber:
John, the one thing we've done here is we did encourage everyone who worked at our headquarters office here in Northern New Jersey to work at home during the pandemic. I've been coming to the office generally by myself because I live very close to the office. So it's a short walk for me and there's nobody else around. We have started opening the office up a little bit and occasionally there's two or three people, but whenever we're close together, we don't get closer than the six feet social distancing minimum anyway, but we'll wear masks if we're anywhere nearby. Otherwise we just stay at our individual offices. The work we do, at least for me, involved a lot of travel, a lot of airline travel and that completely shut down. In fact, the last trip I did was for the new Embraer 300E pilot report in late February.

Matt Thurber:
And that was to Embraer's Melbourne, Florida facility. And since then I haven't traveled on the airlines at all. I did have to cancel one trip that was planned to visit Saab in Sweden in late March. Not only because of the coronavirus concerns, but because it appeared to be impossible to get there on the airlines. The flights either didn't exist or would have gone through very, very complicated routing. And I may have ended up being stuck there for the duration and not able to come back to the U.S., so that trip got canceled. Since then, we've basically just been working the phones, attending a lot of Zoom conferences, webinars, still covering a lot of the news of the industry, but the news has kind of shifted. In fact, one of our big coverage areas is international air shows and conventions, and those have completely dried up. The pilot reports. There haven't been any since the Phenol 300, but part of that is because there's just not a lot of activity in new aircraft right now. The other part is it's still difficult to travel.

John Croft:
Well, Matt, one of the things we've learned during our research for this episode is that COVID-19 and quarantines in particular are driving a new focus on flight simulation, some cool new innovations we're seeing there. You're one of the top evaluators of desktop flight sims out there. So I'd like to know what you've seen in terms of simulators, and more importantly, what are you building right now for yourself?

Matt Thurber:
For me, what I look for in a desktop simulator is replication of the actual aircraft, especially the avionics, because I use the simulator for mostly IFR proficiency. And I look for some kind of accurate replication of how the avionics really work. So that I can simulate flying to a fairly accurate degree so that there's positive transfer of the experience. And it's not making my skills deteriorate, but enhancing them. In recent years, developers have really started spending a lot of time accurately replicating avionics. And it's been exciting to try out a lot of the airplanes that are available.

John Croft:
Do you think with the importance of social distancing more and more that we will see more activity in the simulator area for training and proficiency?

Matt Thurber:
Yes, I do, because a lot of pilots have been unable to fly in a real airplane or even go to training events and simulators during furloughs, or just because their company airplanes haven't been flying at all. Desktop simulation gives you a way to do proficiency practice at a really low cost, but with really very good fidelity. And even though you can't use this for any kind of regulatory compliance, like for IFR currency or hours towards any ratings or licenses, it's still an extremely valuable experience. And I could fill you in on an experience I had recently doing some remote training on my desktop simulator that worked out really well.

John Croft:
Yeah, I'd like to hear about that.

Matt Thurber:
So I used real time air traffic control system on my simulator set up. And what this gives you is a service where you have to pretend they are actually speaking to a real air traffic controller as you would when you're flying a real airplane, I have to call the controller for a clearance.

Matt Thurber:
I have to call ground control for clearance to taxi. I have to call the tower controller for clearance for takeoff, just like I would in the real world. And at the other end of my microphone, is a real person acting in the role of an air traffic controller. And these people are trained in proper air traffic control procedures. They're very professional. They really do force you to use proper phraseology and it adds extra element of realism to the desktop simulation. There is also another service staffed by volunteers that does a very good job. So I learned recently that a new service it's called Remote Coaching. And with Remote Coaching, you hook up your simulator computer with a flight instructor somewhere … It could be anywhere in the world over the internet, and you can do this through Skype or Discord. There's a lot of different methods, but all that has to happen is the instructor needs to be able to see my displays.

Matt Thurber:
So he can see what the airplane's doing on my display while I'm flying it. He doesn't need to be able to see me at my control. So I connected with a Remote Coach. And the first one, we did a IFR proficiency check with him coaching me through our computers. And I have to tell you, this was a stress inducing, realistic instrument proficiency check, and it was a great workout.

John Croft:
Excellent. Well, Matt, thank you very much for everything you've done for us today. It's fascinating information and we look forward to great things coming out of your publication in the near future and the long future.

John Croft:
Alison, that was really cool. Can you loan me some money? I really need to buy a simulator now.

Alison Duquette:
Well, John, I can't give you a loan, but I can give you some trivia.

Speaker 6:
What percentage of people in the world have traveled by airplane? Fewer people have traveled by airplane than you might think various reports estimate between five and 10% of the global population travel in airplanes in a given year.

Alison Duquette:
Well, John, we have perspective from a couple of guys. Now let's get a woman's perspective. Julie Boatman, she just got back from Portugal. Started flying again, right at the beginning of COVID. She's the editor of Flying Magazine. And let's hear what she has to say.

John Croft:
We're now speaking with Julie Boatman, who among many other talents is a pilot, author, and editor-in-chief of Flying Magazine.

John Croft:
Hi Julie, thanks for joining us on this episode of The Air Up There; General Aviation and COVID-19. Julie, I know you recently got back into flying here in the U.S., after some time living and flying in Portugal. Of course, you got back into flying just in time for COVID-19 to change everything. Tell me what it was like to get started aviating again. And then all of a sudden it gets stopped so quickly. How has that affected your flying and your job at flying for that matter?

Julie Boatman:
I came back to the U.S. about a year ago after having lived in Portugal for four years, and working with a couple of different aviation training organizations, mostly near Lisbon, but also up in Porto. And so I became familiar with general aviation and flight training operations throughout the country, and a little bit around the Iberian peninsula. I did some flying off and on. When I came back, I needed to get a flight review and get back up to speed with exactly where things were, as far as the regs. We moved back to the D.C. areas so I had to get my operations in the special flight rules area back up to speed.

Julie Boatman:
So I got back into flying and I was gaining back into getting my instrument proficiency back at about the time when things started locking back down and as double [inaudible 00:30:32], and as a flight instructor, it's a little frustrating because I was right about ready to kind of get back up to speed. So I could do some cross country flying again with IFR proficiency and all of that came to a halt when things started locking down in the D.C. area around mid-March.

John Croft:
So what have you done since then? Have you been able to do some simulator work or is it starting to ease back up? What's it like?

Julie Boatman:
I think as quickly as was prudent flight schools in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area figured out, as soon as they got rulings that they were essential businesses, they came up with strategies to get their flight instructors regularly flying and to get things opened up for business purposes. And fortunately I had some business purpose to fly. I've managed to do some flying. And then again with friends who have their airplanes and … It's hard to socially distance and a sky catcher, but we wore masks. Some were We're very prudent. And also I went flying with some friends who have tandem aircraft where you can kind of keep things on a more socially distant way. So that's been my sense of that sense is that, there is activity and there are people flying and I've seen some very busy days, but the Frederick Airport, at least [inaudible 00:31:48] Hagerstown. We live under the traffic pattern at Hagerstown. There was a quiet span there, but there also, I can vouch for the operations that are still going on.

John Croft:
Well, Julia, we've talked to other publications, including AOPA and Aviation International News, and so much of what all of you guys do with stories, which is fantastic. As you go out and fly with people, you get out and talk with people and you learn their stories. How are you doing that right now in the times of COVID-19?

Julie Boatman:
Well, we do it methodically. We had one of our feature stories for the August Issue, was on the Epic E1000. And they had just gotten their demo aircraft up to speed out on the West Coast, just as things were locking down, but we managed to have them come down and they did. They were socially distant. They wore masks, they cleaned prodigiously. They minimized their contact with others and took that strategy forward. And we're continuing to do those things to observe the protocols, depending on where it is, we're going to be flying. The comfort level of the various folks we were flying with were pilots that were used to being cautious and following protocols. And I see this as nothing really different. It's up to the pilot in command to make those decisions about what they're comfortable with on a given day. Just like choosing the weather that you fly in or choosing the state of the aircraft that you're going to fly in.

John Croft:
Good stuff. Now I would imagine the internet being what it is and social media that you hear a lot from your readers. Right now. What are you hearing from your readers in terms of what they're seeing out there from COVID-19,

Julie Boatman:
I'm really getting the sense that folks are out there flying and doing things that they feel comfortable with, and they want to keep moving on. We continue to see a lot of folks talk about getting certificates and ratings, continuing to pursue the purchase of aircraft, building airplanes, finishing up hangar projects. We're not necessarily having the big fly-ins and get togethers and gatherings like that, but we're having … Certainly people are getting together on a smaller level. And as you know, you can stay pretty far away from others. If you're just going out to the hangar and pulling airplane out and going flying. We've seen a lot of that. And that activity really didn't … There was a lull for a few weeks, but it's feeling much more normal than I expected.

John Croft:
Are you seeing people do more with platforms like Zoom and gathering platforms that weren't so much in use before?

Julie Boatman:
Absolutely. We already had a remotely optimized office at flying. So our transition from a business standpoint wasn't that much different. I'm used to meeting with my colleagues over Google Hangouts. But what I have seen is all of the regular meetings they've been taking place online virtually; virtual air shows, the Virtual Air Race Classic. There's been an almost instant adoption of those tools because I think pilots are very pragmatic, very practical, and will use the things that are available to them.

John Croft:
Do you sense that there's overall optimism in the industry or are people kind of what next year will bring?

Julie Boatman:
There's a real dichotomy. It depends on who you talk to. Obviously colleagues in the airline industry can be feeling a little bit more pessimistic because they're facing some real challenges because the operations are not bouncing back. They're coming back, but in a slower progression than I think everybody would like to see. But if you talk with other people in the other market segments, they're seeing their business, after a period of uncertainty, their business solidify, continue to grow or take a different angle because of what's going on. So it really depends, John

John Croft:
Well, as a writer of books, I'm sure you're used to looking at things from the big picture and how it looks from afar, do see any learnings coming out of all this that to you make a lot of sense for what might change and what might not?

Julie Boatman:
I've been in the aviation industry for almost 30 years and seeing the cyclical nature on a large scale, as opposed to just over the course of a few years, we've had 9/11 we've had the great recession. We've had, now the corona pandemic. I was with AOPA when 9/11 happened. I was with Cessna when the great recession happened and now there's this. And what it's taught me is that you always need to be thinking about how your business can be diversified and how you can be open to change and have a flexible mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. Because if you have a fixed mindset, you're going to be disappointed and you may end up losing your shirt. If you have a flexible mindset, things may be tough for a while, but you're already operating with the ability to move forward with the changes around you and make them opportunities.

John Croft:
So it's been fascinating talking to you today, Julie. I really appreciate you joining us and giving us your perspective. So thank you.

Julie Boatman:
You bet.

John Croft:
Alison, I don't know about you, but I've learned a heck of a lot in this episode. I've been around flying. I've been doing some flying, but I wasn't aware of what was happening in terms of simulation and the new types of training that's available. And these are things I'm going to go out and look into myself. So that was a great part about this.

Alison Duquette:
Well, as you know, John, I'm not a pilot, but I found it fascinating too. So thanks for meeting up with all those folks. John, you talked to Graham Warrick, he's managing editor of Aviation Week and Bruce Holmes, retired chief strategist for NASA and the creator of the Small Aircraft Transportation System research program. We're going to hear from them in another episode.

John Croft:
Yeah. This definitely deserves a part two. There's a lot of ground to cover or should I say air to cover?

Alison Duquette:
And that's our show. We hope you enjoyed it. Learn something new and we'll listen to part two. When we hear from both Graham and Bruce. The Air Up There is a podcast brought to you by the Federal Aviation Administration. You can follow the FAA on Twitter @FAANews, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn @FAA. Thanks for listening. Happy flying.

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