Today the UK Government (Department for Transport) issued updated guidance to help the General Aviation (GA) sector prepare to reopen safely for business, taking into account the return to flight training on Saturday 4th July. This post has been edited to highlight the most salient points but you are advised to read the full guidance.
From 4 July, the safe return of dual flights and training flights, and the reopening of GA businesses, will be permitted in England. In general, GA flying is allowed where social distancing measures can be observed.
This guidance is to help businesses to put measures in place to do that safely. Please Note: There is different guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Public Health England recommends keeping a two metre distance from others. Where this is not possible, you need to:
CARRY OUT A CORONAVIRUS RISK ASSESSMENT
This includes taking appropriate actions to reduce the risk of transmission.
For example social distancing, hand washing, limiting numbers of people you come into contact with, using a face covering, avoiding touching your face, avoiding being face to face with others, staying outdoors where possible, and touching as few surfaces as possible.
Passengers must wear a face covering when on board aircraft in England. This includes individuals taking part in General Aviation activities where they are not sharing piloting or flight crew duties, for example, flying as a passenger in a balloon, or on an introductory flight, or on a cost-shared basis. Face coverings are recommended to be worn by all individuals on aircraft, where social distancing is not possible, where it is safe to do so. Some people do not have to wear a face covering where they are not able to for health, age and equality reasons.
A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of workplace PPE. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with coronavirus and the more time you spend near them. You are very unlikely to be infected from walking past another person. The risk of infection also increases with the number of contacts you have with people outside your household each day.
If outdoors (for example, in a balloon), you should limit your social interactions to up to 6 people from different households. Follow social distancing guidance.
REOPENING OF AERODROMES AND TRAINING ORGANISATIONS
The question of whether any organisation should open (or reopen) is a business decision for the individual organisation. Aerodrome operators, training organisations and other GA businesses are best placed to decide whether opening is in their best interest, either from a commercial or health and safety standpoint.
Training establishments are advised to use online or telephone pre-booking systems, for example when booking flying lessons, and when booking an appointment, asking if customers can attend on their own, where possible.
They should also: Encourage customers to arrive at the time of their scheduled appointment or lesson; Inform customers of guidance about visiting the premises prior to, and at the point of arrival, including information on websites, on booking forms and in entrance ways; Adjust how people move through the premises to reduce congestion, and contact between people, for example, queue management or one-way flow; Use contactless payment methods; and Record customers and visitors. This will help with any required contact tracing efforts, if necessary.
FLYING INSTRUCTORS & OTHER STAFF
Flying instructors and support staff should be formally informed of the risks and all actions being taken to combat the risks. This is to ensure they: understand the specific risks and mitigations; understand site protocols; and are physically and mentally well enough to engage in a return to training.
In most cases it will not be possible to keep a distance of 2 metres apart inside a training aircraft. Measures to manage the risk of transmission will depend on the type and size of the aircraft. Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, training schools and instructors should take the most appropriate actions to reduce the risk of transmission.
Social distancing also applies to all parts of a business where students or instructors may congregate outside of the aircraft. Examples of this include reception areas and classrooms. Cleaning is vital in all areas of the training venue and aircraft. Training organisations should write and implement a cleaning plan. This should be updated when new information becomes available.
It should ensure that all areas to be accessed by flying instructors, students and support staff are deep cleaned to a minimum standard. This includes regular cleaning for: surfaces on board the aircraft; all other areas accessed by students, instructors and support staff; all frequently touched surfaces, for example, door handles, banister rails, buttons and toilet areas.
Other advice includes reducing and fixing the number of people each person has contact with – for example, training organisations should consider limiting the number of students per instructor (so each person works with only a few others).
HEALTH & SAFETY LAW
Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law. Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to two years.
General Aviation flying in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
This guidance refers to the social distancing guidelines that only apply in England. There may be information in this guidance that is useful for all individuals and businesses taking part in GA activities to consider, but any GA flying in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales must be carried out in a way that ensures that all rules and physical distancing guidance are complied with in those locations. For information relating to relevant rules and guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales please consult the website of the relevant devolved administration, which will be updated as required.