Flight Instruction: Just Say No


Last week, we published an open-ended query to readers asking about flight activity and instruction as the COVID-19 pandemic burns through the U.S. at an accelerating pace. All the major schools have stood down and are temporarily closing or reverting to online instruction. I never thought I would say this, but it’s now time for the rest of the training industry to do the same.

It’s my predilection to leave risk mitigation decisions up to the people making them and I’ve said before that I’m loath to step in and second guess anyone else. But this time, I’m doing exactly that. The COVID-19 epidemic is beginning to do just what public health officials said it would: Enter an exponential growth rate that would tax the capacity of hospitals to cope with the case inflow. You’ve seen the same reporting I have coming out of New York and there is little reason to believe these hot spots won’t develop elsewhere.

The last time I wrote about this on March 12, there were 1663 cases in the U.S. As I write this on Sunday night, there are more than 140,000 and by the time you read this Monday morning, that will likely be 150,000, both as a consequence of ramped up testing and exponential spread.

On CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, I saw an interview with a nurse just finishing her fifth 13-hour shift with no relief in sight. Doctors, respiratory specialists, hospital staff and even janitors are doing the same at great personal risk to themselves. Our part—and the only thing we can do—is to self-isolate as much as practical to avoid becoming another patient and to minimize spread. It’s that simple.

With the possible exception of medical flying, I can’t imagine any aspect of flight instruction that is currently so critical as to justify whatever risk there is of becoming a patient or a spreader. So, it distills down to either the money or the desire to keep flying. This is not personal risk; it’s community risk and we all have an overwhelming responsibility to contribute. We can always get those flight hours and aircraft revenue later. But every doctor or nurse we lose—and we are losing them—is an irretrievable loss.

We can all become heroes by not becoming patients. Let’s start today.

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    • And when we learn that we are, at the present time, at the tail end of the curve (instead of the beginning), will serious people apologize for not analyzing the data themselves? The data suggest that we’re at least 6 months into it now in the USA.

      Remember the panic that we now have more hurricanes and storms that ever due to man made co2 global warming? Reality was that the increase was due to man made satellites in the late 80’s being able to LOG more storms in places that no one previously reported? Gee, maybe the same thing is here where finally after 6 months they are testing and “WHOA there is an explosion of cases!”. The data says one thing buy wisdom knows how to interpret the raw data.

      Just sayin’

  1. Thanks Paul, another thoughtful reminder.

    A short story maybe of interest here. First week of January, despite our October flu shots, my son, wife and me came down with the flu. A few days into it I couldn’t break my fever nor catch my breath, so a trip to urgent care was needed. Shortly after a blood draw and nasal swab, I was startled by the not uncommon door burst from the Doc who told me I had Type I influenza. Excuse me? Yes, I was sent home with Type I-nconclusive – neither A or B could be identified.
    So for two solid weeks I was sicker than I can ever recall, no sense of smell or taste, bad cough, fever coming and going, nausea, etc. I still haven’t recovered my 6 second inhale/exhale breath back, 3 seconds is about the best for now.
    But just the other day I was researching and came across an article that had several hundred people commenting that they had this exact type of experience, some as far back as Thanksgiving.
    I can’t prove it, but I just might have had Covid-19 before it was recognized. Please heed the experts directives and be heroic as Paul suggests by not becoming a patient or spreader – like maybe I was. Despite being 70 and having allergies, I made it through Type I influenza. Be well all.

  2. Thank you. There are many times more people walking around, transmitting this virus, than the numbers show, and one of the might be your flight instructor, or it might be YOU. Twelve inches away in a cockpit is exactly the sort of environment where this virus can be easily transmitted.

    There is almost nobody in America who will not be negatively impacted by Covid-19; most of us will be lucky if that impact is merely financial. Social distancing is no joke, and I appreciate you saying so to a community which may not fully realize it yet.

  3. Will the FAA extend the date of BFR deadlines ? This is important. I own a Vans RV-9A. As long as my last BFR has not lapsed, I can be PIC during my BFR. And any CFI can then conduct the BFR. However, if my BFR has lapsed, then the CFI must be PIC. That creates a huge problem. The insurance companies have become more and more stringent on “named pilots“, requiring time in make and model as well as current in said model. The Vans RV-9A is an experimental aircraft for which it is very difficult to find CFIs with this qualification. I wasted months a few years ago with this problem with an RV-6, trying to find an instructor to get checked out. I hope the FAA will provide relief from this situation.

  4. Paul…
    Well said. This is a pandemic in every sense. Time for the naysayers and worse to do their part to support the public effort to reduce infections and thereby help save lives.

    To your main point…..Want to continue your pilot training??? Try home simulation. “Shelter in Place” is all the more a good reason for student and seasoned aviators alike to explore the current world of home simulation.

    For those on a budget the new Honeycomb yoke is a game changer. I have more expensive gear with a 65″ LED TV, a Yoko yoke, MFG Rudder Pedals, a Saitek throttle quadrant and a realistic flap switch from Desktop Aviator.

    I recently switched from P3d (Lockheed Martin’s 64bit upgrade of Microsoft’s FSX) solely to be able to use a neat software package called Air Manager which combined with a gadget called “Knobster” and a 23″ touch screen allows me to operate a whole host of instruments. As an example, I have Nav 1 and Nav 2 and simply touch and dial in radials. You can practice all manner of cool navigation exercises known so well by all you IFR magicians, but equally important for those seeking their PPL.

    Training?? I have an excellent CFII who screen shares on Skype as we continue training weekly. After I type this I will be taking another practice flight to be ready for tomorrow’s lesson.

    Finally, if anyone wants to know where home flight simulation is going in a few months, check out all the buzz around Flight Simulator 2020 (Microsoft and a genius French video lab called Asobo). Want to fly over your own house? FS2020 is based on Bing’s satellite imaging with 3cm resolution and an AI engine to make for ultra realistic scenery for just about everywhere. Brand new physics for aircraft and weather that finally matches real world flight.

    Home simulation offers more than most would imagine and is an excellent way to keep fresh on pilot skills while we await a turning of the tide later this year.

  5. I’m a student pilot. 64 years old. I bought a plane, just had the 1st annual done on it, and we’re coming into flying season. I’m guessing another 5-10 hours and I’ll be ready for my 1st solo and another 10 and I’ll have my sport licence and I’ll be free to roam the countryside in my life long dream. My instructor informed me that the schooling was going to end until this crisis clears up. I was devastated and thought, “we are only two people in my plane and if we were careful, what chance could there be that we’d get infected”? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that at my age, and with a respiratory issue, there might be a chance I’d never get to fly again if I actually contracted COVID 19. I fully believe this will be conquered and life will return to normal. I have been cracking the books and keeping knowledgeable with my ground work and my plane is spotless now that I have time to do nothing but clean it… I hear the occasional plane flying over my house and wish it were me but, I know that waiting is the right thing to do. I’ve become friends with my instructor and would feel awful if he or anyone in his family got sick for me.
    So in the meantime, I will wait. As long as it takes.

  6. Again, the risk from GA (especially the training segment) is INSIGNIFICANT when it comes to global warming, epidemics, or any other of the latest disasters du jour. The right thing to do is to be sane; the wrong thing to do is to take things out-of-context and react insane to current situations and pressures. People who say to shut things down “as long as it takes” have not read the latest news of riots in Italy. Again, the pilot population will not be in the sci-economic riots that will result from shutting down the economy since we ARE NOT a problem. Stay safe.

    • @Mark F apparently there are not riots in Italy, at least not yet. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-30/italy-risks-losing-grip-in-south-with-fears-of-looting-and-riots
      If you understand the math of exponential growth on the “logistic curve” (see Paul’s post on that) and we don’t try to contain things, it will be much worse. Not a little worse. So far our efforts are not working in part because too many people don’t take it seriously, and we started two months late. What this could look like is https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/podcasts/the-daily/coronavirus.html
      The most recent 10X increase in the US took 10 days (Mar 18-28) per the John Hopkins site. We are still testing-limited so we have no idea how many walking Petri dishes we have. If we see 10X in another 10-14 days that would be 1.5 million cases and 25,000 dead. When will it stop? We have over 350 million people in the US so this could get really serious.
      My wife is an MD in a local network of community health centers, the largest in our state. She’s at work today and was on call over the weekend. They do not have enough PPE so a group of us here are making face shields for them. That’s where my money and time are going instead of into my BFR (which I need).

      • I don’t care about your wife’s opinion when it’s contrary to the U.S. Constitution. Unless there is martial law, we are free to assemble if we wish. End of story.

          • “The problem” is not the Bill of Rights (1st Amendment) nor is the solution tyranny. Elected officials cannot unilaterally suspend the Constitution because of flu season. This is a dangerous lawless thing to jail people for exercising their personal rights to decide what is safe and what is not.

        • Mark F: You need to brush up on your reading and comprehension skills, pal. Bruce B. did not share his wife’s opinion about anything – he simply stated his wife’s occupation and related some of what she was facing in her work environment.

          I, for one, want to thank her for the sacrifice she (along with many other doctors, nurses and health care workers) is making – working on the front lines caring for those who are ill and doing so at considerable risk to their own lives.

          You, on the other hand, and your “I don’t care” comment, speaks volumes.

          Much like these so-called “pastors” who have flouted state authority and common sense and have encouraged their flock to gather in large groups in the face of overwhelming epidemiological data that such groups will increase the spread of the virus, you apparently feel that your right to assemble trumps any need to protect the larger community in which you exist.

          Sure, you are free to assemble if you wish – but does that mean you should?? We as citizens also enjoy freedom of speech – does that mean that we should all be allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded auditorium?

          So go ahead and assemble – wrap yourself up in the Constitution. And I wish you well in living with the knowledge that you may be contributing to the deaths of other people.

          • I am sorry Andrew, but also your “so-called pastors” and “state authority” comments, speak volumes. Was it irresponsible for them to assemble yes…but that’s a different question than Mark’s point. And…wrapping ourselves in the Constitution is what makes us the United States of America…not North Korea.

          • “I wish you well in living with the knowledge that you may be contributing to the deaths of other people.”

            That’s irrational; so I reject it.
            It’s MUCH safer for 2 local people to meet 1 on 1 in a private plane for some training than for 200 people (of unknown origin) to get together on a single airline flight. Reality therefor that a BFR training flight (and then fly yourself) results in a 100 times LESS LIKELY contribution to the harm of other people!

            I never said “I don’t care”; I said it’s irrational and frankly illegal to stop training.

    • There are No riots in Italy. Only deaths due to this epidemic.
      To bring things down tot the local level…. You might not get sick, but you might be the one that further spreads this virus, and the one you infect will do the same to others. In Europe there are whole towns infected due to only one careless individual that joined a family event – maybe even unknowingly. Still, like the chain of domino’s falling in aircraft accident sequences of events, a phenomenon you might be familiar with, the shelter in place advice will help stop one piece falling over and might just be the essential stop in the sequence of events. It is not a matter of what the Constitution says… it is a matter of social responsibility. If this virus gets further out of control even your most basic health care services, for you or your family or friends, will not be able to cope.

      • You cannot toss the Constitution, that is irresponsible and dangerous. You cannot have a society based on lawlessness.

        • Mark F.
          I am sure glad I am not the only one who has figured that out. It is one thing to issue “ guidelines” to follow to try to help the situation. It is quite another to do or try to do what most state governors are doing with threats to persons exercising their legal Constitutional rights. No, I do not have the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre. But restricting 1st amendment right to freedom of religion or assembly, or speech, closing or restricting access to arms for protecting yourself or your family according to the 2nd amendment, restricting access to abortion clinics (protected by Supreme Court ruling), and restricting travel between the states( prohibited by 14th amendment after the civil war) would pretty much trash what is left of the Constitution. There are no allowances for that in the Constitution except for Congress’s power to declare war(something Congress has not done or has been unwilling to do in 80 years).

          My company has taken measures to minimize any exposure to the virus. Our scheduling department is following “essential “ trip rules set up by the state. I have flown several trips since. If a flight school feels it needs to stop flight instruction due to the virus situation that’s fine. It is quite another thing for the government to mandate that especially nation wide. Not all of the regions need to do that. None of those governors have yet talked about government compensation for loss of business or property. The recently passed federal spending bill comes with a lot of conditions that in some cases could be challenged in court.

          The real scary part of all the restrictions is whether or when the restrictions will go away. Since there are still a lot of restrictions to GA that were enacted in response to 9/11 that were not eliminated it makes me wonder.

          Sorry for the long rant. I am willing to to my part to minimize the viral spread, but not at the cost of my Constitutional rights and my freedom. After all without that what good is the rule of constitutional law?

          • I don’t mind sacrificing for freedom.
            I do mind being forced by the state to give up inalienable human rights.

    • The fragility of GA is something this measure (shutting down flight instruction ignores). GA has been teetering on collapse even before this. FBOs struggle, and routinely fail or change hands. Municipalities struggle to fund community airports. Flight schools fail frequently. Major aviation manufacturers and parts suppliers fail or merge (Mooney, Mattituck, etc.). The pilot population has collapsed in the last 30 years. If flight schools fail, that will be a bigger problem. The municipal funding for airports will be under severe pressure after this, because of huge tax shortfalls during this massive economy shutdown. What I am saying is that there may be no GA to return to, if we insist on shutting down the last little thing.

  7. Agree 100%.

    But, after the economy has finished cratering, airlines limp back into some form of normalcy, the pilot shortage we thought would be on the horizon will have evaporated with the contraction of the number of seats in the air at any one time, and we have to take the next few years to beat down the unemployment stats…does anyone really think that there will be extra funds at hand in most people’s checking accounts for something as secondary to maintaining real life as flight instruction?

    9/11 (I was instructing part time back then..) had a close to a year effect on the numbers of hours I flew and stranded a whole bunch of youngling captain wannabes in the CFI time building (or scraping) conundrum. I’m pretty sure, while 2001 was only 4 or 5 days until there was (limited) resumption of activity, keeping everyone and most businesses locked up for 6-8 weeks will have a more dramatic effect. Not trying to sow fear and angst…just trying to take a clear view of reality.

    Stay home, certainly. Stay healthy, certainly. Don’t be stupid and lick subway grab handles and cough on veggies at the supermarket. We are all in this together, but the other side is going to be a lot different than it was on January 1 of this year.

  8. I have to differ from this. First of all, flight instruction is an infinitesimal part of the population and economy. It’s one person meets one person, not a crowd. Certainly safeguards can be made before meeting in the cockpit. Wash hands and face throughly, wear freshly laundered clothes. Of course have no symptoms beforehand. Also, this needs to be put into context. Everyday you go to groceries, drugstores, pump gas, open delivered packages, pass currency, pay at touch screens, and much else, that either directly or indirectly involves touching where others have touched. So, why such an emphasis on the meeting of 2 individuals who, after all, can take reasonable precautions? Must every facet of the economy be destroyed ? It should be pointed out GA hangs by a thread. The declining pilot population and financially fragile aviation infrastructure make this a real threat to its continuation. We shouldn’t be overzealous in shutting everything down.

    • John D. – I agree! See my post. This will kill GA. We all go out and about to buy groceries, gas, and take safeguards. I think risk can be mitigated with everything you mentioned.

    • I agree it is not so simple as ‘just stop all instruction’ as there are too many cases out there that I have seen where one has to weight risk/benefit. (Hey, aren’t pilots supposed to do this…Weigh risks/benefits with lives in the balance?). Perhaps this was mentioned earlier but I will restate that ‘Aviation’ in general and Flight Schools in particular are identified as Critical Infrastructure. cisa.gov. They are exempted from the Governor’s Stay at Home order. I just got a pilot legal to fly again after a flight review. I wore a N95 mask in the cockpit and gloves. Both of us are asymptomatic and in a rural area with 70 cases total. That risk was clearly less than a trip to the grocery store in terms of N-n transmission numbers. It also provided me with income, the airport, and will vastly improve his ability to deal with the crisis since he can now fly. In my view, and by mutual agreement, we both accepted the highly mitigated risk. We each then went back to our ‘Stay-At-Home’ lives. Now if I can’t fly to earn income I suppose I can serve food on my friends food truck but that is gonna take 3x the hourly exposure for the same money and expose myself to a whole lot more folks. It’s more complicated than ‘just shut everything down and stay home everyone’ unless you also plan to feed them and keep their lights on.

    • I also agree with John D. This from a charter and managed Hawker pilot. Just flew a trip today. My company has been doing extra disinfection procedures for cabin and cockpit cleaning between trips since the lockdown started. We also have a questionnaire which our clients fill out before flying. There are ways to work around the virus situation. Shutting down the entire system would be even dumber than what is happening now.

      Whether anyone likes it or not Americans have a history of distrusting government. What little trust there once was went away with the Vietnam war. That along with a lot of unconstitutional acts now by the various state governments just makes that worse. Lawsuits are now being filed for some of those actions. Some proposed actions were stopped by legal threats. The longer this “lockdown” lasts, the more difficult it will be to enforce, and less willing people will be in going along. What scares me more than the “pandemic “ is what restrictions the government will want to make permanent. If you don’t believe that look at all of the restrictions to GA that were enacted after 9/11 that are still on the books.

      In some areas, stopping flight training might make sense. But a blanket ban throughout the entire country definitely does not.

  9. “by the time you read this Monday morning, that will likely be 150,000, both as a consequence of ramped up testing and exponential spread.”
    I do not think you can say “exponential spread” without ubiquitous testing during social distancing. That is conjecture at best. Distancing may or may not be working. We do not know at this point due to the lack of testing minimally or non sick people.

    • Fair enough. I tried to qualify that with the ramped up testing comment. However, unless death causes are being widely misreported, Covid-19 total deaths appear to be on an exponential curve, doubling every three to four days. These are a reasonable surrogate for total cases, given our lousy testing matrix.

      Another interesting thing is that these numbers are being driven by a handful of hotspots, including New York, Washington state and Louisiana with Florida and New Jersey following. But not Utah nor Arkansas. So the deadly question is: if distancing is not working, should we abandon it?

      I have no answer to that, but it doesn’t make sense to even suggest it.

      • Paul, your prediction was pretty close. The official case total as of noon today was 151,000.

        It is difficult to generalize about whether continued flight training is wise because of the wide variation of cases across the country. In states like New York or Florida with mayor outbreaks, halting flight training is certainly prudent. But, many states have few recorded cases, so the decision is much harder. With reasonable precautions, training could be a safe activity. As usual, common sense should apply. Unfortunately, that is a commodity that too often seems in short supply.

  10. Flight instruction involves more than 2 people sitting close together in an airplane. Fueling, dispatch, maintenance and others will be directly exposed in the process. I don’t think it is unreasonable to hit the pause button for the next 2 months.

    My personal airplane was filled to full tanks several weeks ago. When I finish my 14 days self isolation due to international travel, I will pull it out of my private hangar and go flying alone for some short local trips, but when the tanks get low it is going back in the hangar and staying there.

  11. Paul, I have read your articles for years. I have come to appreciate your ability to cut through the BS and call things for what they are by careful research and common sense. You are missing the mark here. As a current physician and former Air Force flight doc I look at the facts. There are areas of this country that are virtually untouched by the virus. If you are healthy with no risk factors (travel, age, co-morbidity) then go! Keep the economy going where its safe to do so. Aviation is a risk unto itself that we all willingly accept. Our population is more likely to be killed somewhere between pulling out of the driveway in our cars on the way to the airport and taxing back to the ramp for shut down than contracting and dying from COVID-19.

    I beg everyone to please not fall for the hype in the media. This is bad but nothing like it is being made out to be. We have had over 100 child deaths this flu season in the US and world wide the flu will still kill more people (as it does every year) than COVID-19. Where is the annual outrage? Keep your perspective! Get a flu shot! If you are sick, then stay home. If you are an at risk individual then stay home and stay away from others. Use your common sense!

    • Michael,
      I appreciate your thoughts and must confess I have similar thoughts. But as others have pointed out, GA instruction does involve more than a pilot and an instructor and a mutual shared risk. I am in a personal quandary as an AME. Do I continue doing FAA flight physicals? Or not?

      Pertinent to this discussion is the FAA decision to extend the expiry date of current airmen until June. That helps me personally as mine expires during the grace period and my own AME is not performing them at the moment and he is the public health director for the region who sets policy.

      For those who can and I know well personally, I can and have been doing BMed within certain limits and following state mandated procedures. At this point, I simply cannot justify the risk of bringing an unknown trainee/applicant into the office for a medical, at least until we are certain of adequacy of medical supplies, personal protection/infection control supplies, etc. We are very early in the clutches of a world wide infection with a demonstrated high communicability factor, and a far from certain outcome.

      There exists a whole other crowd, though: Those ineligible for BMed. These are student pilots of all ages and persuasions who have never held a medical.

      I have delayed scheduling students who are not ready for solo until they are closer to solo. For those that are, I am in a quandary: Do I bring a student pilot into an office full of potentially sick people and risk the student and the patient population? Or is it better to tell a young and enthusiastic pup that it might be better to sit this one out until we have more clarity. Or do I suggest they go LSA and come back when sanity returns?

      Right now there are deferrals of procedures considered “elective” by those that consider such things. Among these, cancer screening and diagnostic procedures. I don’t know a single soul who would consider a cancer biopsy “elective,” yet here we are.

      • Walter-
        Tough choices. Why not have special non-sick hours those students that need the physicals? I think a lot depends on where you are and what is going on in your community. If you are in a heavy hit area it probably makes sense to put it on hold for a few weeks.

        It’s amazing to essential services clearly mean different things to different people. In my state, you can get a hair cut, get your nails done and go to the bank – all essential according to the powers that be.

        I also have been seeing patients for basic med. With the FAA extensions there is no rush to get them done at this point. I live in an air park where flying is still very much active and a needed diversions from the craziness. We have self serve gas pumps so that is not much of an argument to stop flying. The local mechanic is a one-man show and is busy as ever.

        I really wish you the best! I would love to hear what you decided to do.

    • “There are areas of this country that are virtually untouched by the virus. If you are healthy with no risk factors (travel, age, co-morbidity) then go!”

      I wonder if that’s what all those people who got sick in Sun Valley, Vail, Park City, or Albany (GA!) were thinking…

  12. Say what you will about our president, but he is right on when he says he doesn’t want the cure to be worse than the problem.

    Some elements of our economy demand shutdown. But flight training? No. It is a small part of the population. It is a population of relatively healthy individuals. Remember, the majority of Corona deaths are premised on previous health conditions for which, I’d imagine, would preclude issuance or sustainance of an FAA medical.

    Remember, also, that a lot of flight schools are Part 61 operations for which protracted shutdown would be the kiss if death.

    Our flight school takes serious precautions before dispatching an instructor and student: Six feet of separation before temperature taking and signing an afadavit assuring no health-risk endeavors were partaken within the previous 14-days.

    Let’s be smart about this…

  13. Thanks Paul. Physical distancing and full cleaning between flights are not an option in GA. The risk should never exceed the value of the mission. Safe pilots know that. The safety mantra also applies to pilots who are “helping” by flying sick people to appointments during the pandemic. Pilots who want to help should carry needed supplies, not people.

  14. Paul:

    I don’t disagree, but maybe some of the commenters won’t have a school to go back to after months.

    What irks me, however, is that we simply ignore the flu. According to the CDC: “We estimate, overall, there were 490,600 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 season.” It is more for 2019-2020, but they are still tallying data.

    So, we basically ignore the flu that kills 30K+ people a year. No reqjuirment to take the shots, even for school kids. I’ll agree with being cautious–but we are not that way in general, and this Mexican-Beer virus is still peanuts to the flu. (Again, I understand that COVID is serious. What I am saying is that so is the flu.)


    Vince Massimini
    Kentmorr Airpark (3W3) MD

    • I don’t get people who keep comparing this to the flu. This IS NOT the flu. It’s far more contagious, it’s far more deadly, and BTW we have tools and procedures in place to help manage the flu, including vaccines.

      It’s like saying don’t worry about COVID-19 because lots of people also die in car crashes. There’s no connection other than they’re both viruses. COVID deaths will be IN ADDITION to yearly flu deaths.

    • Vince, I think you know better than to suggest we ignore the flu. For the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, we spent $7 billion in suppression efforts, most of it for vaccines and testing kits, which (tests) were available 17 days after genome sequencing.

      What’s different about this is that it’s more virulent and more lethal. No vaccines, no herd immunity. It has proven capable of completely overwhelming the hospital system, or so it has been reported. People who advance the “just the flu” argument either don’t accept those reports, believing them to be media hype, don’t care or don’t think the potential economic damage is worth avoiding 100,000 deaths over a normal flu season, if not more.

      While I can accept that harsh calculation, I personally can’t look my nurse friends in the eye and say, sucks to be you. I’m going to the movies. No evidence yet that there’s some acceptable median between the two camps.

      • Paul-
        As of today, 3/30/20, no US health care system is overwhelmed, some are very busy though. Ventilators a plenty for anyone that needs one. That could change be we are okay for now and will be at current levels for some time. See Dr Birx (White House Corona Virus Coordinator) statements from yesterday trying to calm the inflammatory rhetoric that is needless scaring the population. https://www.facebook.com/JCLinMD/videos/10157224760398443/

        People use the flu as a yardstick. As a society, we have accepted that 40,000 of our citizens will die each year from the flu. We don’t blow up the economy because of it. We encourage people to get flu shots and be smart about exposures. We mitigate the risks.

        In 2018, there were over 38,000 US traffic deaths. We don’t shut down the traffic system; we try and mitigate buy balancing the needs of the economy with the danger of large chucks of metal hauling down the highway just feet apart at 80 mph.

        Scaring people with 100,000 deaths is just wrong and irresponsible. No other country is on such a trajectory or even close. The virulence and lethality of this virus remains to be seen. No one knows what it is. Just because you saw it on TV or read it on the internet does not make it so.

        Since most of the testing has been only on the sickest patients the mortality rate will appear to be excessively high. To determine these rates you have to know prevalence. To know the current and historical prevalence you have to test both active patients and look back at previous patient antibody levels – this includes those that were ill with very mild symptoms. Empiric data is emerging that this may have been with us since the fall. We shall see.

        Pilots are great at reading graphs and extrapolating trajectories and data points. Please look at the data. A great resource is: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus

        Stay safe. Look at the data. This to shall pass…
        Michael Dunn, MD

        • “As of today, 3/30/20, no US health care system is overwhelmed….”

          I guess that depends upon your definition of “overwhelmed.”

          In talking to doctors and nurses in NYC you get a different picture. I have friends working there. Currently they’re using refrigerated trailers parked on nearby streets as temporary morgues to handle all of the dead. Doctors are given one N95 mask and being told, “make it last a week.” A tent field hospital is being set up in Central Park to handle the overflow. Patients are being lined up in hallways because the rooms and ICUs are full.

          And the peak is yet to come.

  15. I agree that safety is Priority 1 with COVID-19, but they better include flight schools in the small business financial relief or this will kill GA. I like many depend on flight schools and rental aircraft to participate in flying and if they go away this will kill the business and leave us nowhere to go. I am continuing to fly with friends that I know have been working from home, are not sick, and we sanitize all the knobs and controls in the airplane before and after every flight. Maybe that’s too much risk for some but I am willing to accept it. We all do that every time we go up..Life has risk…

  16. Thank you Paul for once again taking the long view. Willingness to take the personal risk of exposure does not take into account that the willing then run a high chance in this particular environment of exposing those (older family members?) to the virus who may be unwilling to accept that risk. At this point, operating on the premise that the cure is worse than the illness amounts to arson. And to paraphrase Charlie Sikes, there are arsonists today who will take credit for being firemen.

  17. Thanks Paul for thinking further ahead than where we should have been two weeks ago. It’s refreshing. I’d question even further: should we be committing GA at all in this time except for needed flights (I.E. Medical supplies)? Inherently by getting into an airplane we are putting ourselves at greater risk than that of sitting at home binging on your videos and trolling aviation forums. Additionally, were we to get hurt then we’d run a good chance of taking up an ER bed if we haven’t been reduced to a smoking crater and use up ER/EMS/SAR services. I haven’t been the best at following this advice, using my magic carpet to escape our current work from home situation but I don’t know if its the best thing and I have my doubts about continuing. If grocery clerks, let alone ER docs, are putting their lives on the line by doing their job it seems we should take the luxury of living as absolutely risk free as possible.

  18. Thank you so much Paul for your informed stance, wisdom, and courage to say ” We can all become heroes by not becoming patients. Let’s start today.”

    What has been not included in the conversation by many commentators to this blog is testing. The three countries that got a handle on Covid-19 at this point ( I did not say eradicated) are Germany, S Korea, and China. One trap that has revealed statistically the exponential growth of the transmission of Covid-19 is the the notion that being asymptomatic means you are not infected and contagious. Therefore, with enough hand-washing, masks, and wiping down the cockpit of a the average trainer you are mitigating Covid-19 risks is absurd. A virus is microscopic in size compared to bacteria. Unless you plan on not breathing, every breath exhaled is filled with the Covid-19 virus from an infected yet asymptomatic person. Masks and disinfectants help but in the confines of the average 2/4 place airplane, you will give the gift that keeps on giving.

    Germany has been testing 600,000 people a week. Germany did not wait on government testing results only. They used test kits provided by commercial manufacturers combined with government kits reducing test results times to a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. Merkel said publicly early on the German government expected a 70% infection rate rather than attempting to downplay the seriousness with rhetoric saying it may not be that bad. The US, with a far larger population has barely tested 600,000 people total since this pandemic hit the US. When you know who is infected, where they have been, and where they live, you can be very effective in how you structure social distancing, quarantine, isolation, the man-power of health providers, and hospital bed availability.

    Secondly, the only people getting tested so far in the US has been those who have symptoms, have had them for some time, which generally has been the at risk (the most sinister problem) and older US population. Germany figured out very early that the most mobile, the most inclined to be in tight social quarters, the most likely to be attending large events with high concentrations of people was the 20-50 year old range and targeted the initial testing towards those demographics…asymptomatic or not. That evolved as fast as possible to testing the entire population. Germany, China, and S Korea knew early on who was infected, age ranges, where they had come from, and where they lived taking immediate actions of social distancing, quarantine, isolation, shutting down all non-essential businesses, stopping travel into and out of the country.

    Lastly, the so-called at risk people who we have been led to believe is primarily old people. The at risk portion of the population is anyone with diabetes or is pre-diabetic, has evidence of heart disease, overweight, folks with auto-immune diseases or deficiencies, flu, pneumonia, etc. Just in diabetes, heart disease, and overweight covers 2/3rds of the US population. If you have any one or more of these issues you are at risk, very high risk of infection by Covid-19 and increase risk of death. 330 million people in the US with over 200 million at high risk of infection by Covid-19 with a large percentage requiring long-term intensive care provided by an overwhelmed, understaffed, under equipped, healthcare system. This is why the highest death rates are those with compromised immune systems which happens to be those with heart disease, diabetes, and being over-weight. Age is not your biggest handicap. Your overall health is or the lack of it.

    Trump announced this weekend, an optimistic hope is no more than 100,000 deaths in the US due to Covid-19. Those numbers are considered a victory in this battle. Dr. Fauci thinks 200,000+ will not be unusual, instead, more realistic. The computer models have been hashed and rehashed with them showing an average of 1.6 to 2 million deaths in the US unless we know, who has it, where they have been, where they live, and the ability to effectively quarantine and isolate the infected ones.

    That means we have to be heroes by not becoming patients. I am not convinced the current US population has that kind of selfless courage to stay at home doing what is highly inconvenient, financially straining, but necessary to get a handle on this virus we have no immunity to today.

    Flying by yourself, after fueling by yourself, pulling your airplane out by yourself, parking by yourself, pushing it back into the hangar by yourself, after self-isolating at home, driving to the airport solo, after you have been tested knowing you don’t presently have it or you have had it but not contagious anymore is as close to minimizing your risk to others as possible today. Anything less than that means you are dangerous to anyone with present at risk health conditions which will be minimally two out every three people in the US.

  19. All the arguments so far for continuing flight instruction have been made in terms of “me and the instructor”. What would make people think that they are the instructor’s only student? It’s well established that people without symptoms can be infected and contagious. So all it takes is one student, and soon all the instructor’s students have it. And I’ll bet your flight instructor isn’t the only person you associate with. The virus spreads along chains of association, and experience so far shows that the number of cases doubles in 2 or 3 days.

    Let’s run the numbers. Assume conservatively that the virus will affect 50% of the US population. That’s 165 million people. We’re at 150,000 diagnosed cases now (probably more in reality), so there’s only a factor of 1000 left. At a 3 day doubling rate, that’s 30 days from now. Where are you going to put 150 million sick people? (OK, maybe only 30 million seriously sick people. Still, where are you going to put them?) And if the fatality rate is really 2%, that works out to 3.3 million dead.

    That’s where we’re going if we don’t break the chains aggressively. Good luck.

    • I think you are exaggerating the numbers. The 1918 Spanish flu caused 500,000 to 600,000 American deaths. And many if not most of those deaths were not directly from the flu itself but secondary infections of pneumonia. Don’t forget there were no antibiotics then, so pneumonia had no cure. And the present fatality rate is nothing like 2%. You are using the % deaths as among those already diagnosed. But who are they? Mostly those already critically ill, and this come to the attention of the epidemic statisticians. That heavily biases the %death upwards. The actual infected population is certainly much larger. That includes those with mild or no symptoms. That makes the denominator of deaths/infected a far lower number.

    • Your numbers will be an order of magnitude in error. You’ve left out so many factors I can’t even begin to address them (i.e. you can’t have exponential growth unless your social circle has the same function). The death rate will be below 1% maybe 1/2%.

  20. Given the events that have unfolded over the last couple of months, the more I see, the more I hear, the more I distrust every politician out there including our government. They both have proven time and time again how self centered they both are. They are all liars. Plain and simple.

    If anything, this virus has exposed all of our public officials and entities who they really are. It is beyond disturbing. We are not the country we used to be. Not even close. Freedom is dead. It has been for a long time. This COVID event has just uncovered it and laid it bare for all to see. COVID 19 is exposing the truth. Never, ever, trust anything that comes out of the government. They are all liars.

    • Agreed! That is one of many reasons the Constitution makes no allowance for any government declared emergencies except for declaration of war. And that power is only given to Congress, something they have not done in 80 years. After fighting a war to gain independence, our founding fathers were not about to give the new government any opportunity to abuse legally their new authority. Unfortunately those governors who are issuing decrees are just now being challenged in court as unconstitutional. So trust in government has to be earned, something our politicians can’t understand, therefore the obvious mistrust most Americans have for government. The longer this “lockdown” drags on the harder it will be to enforce.

    • In the U.S.A., wars are fought to gain freedom, or, to preserve freedom. Lives in the U.S.A. have always been lost in the name of freedom. You don’t go to war to save lives, you go to war to save freedom. Lives are worth nothing if you don’t have freedom. At this point in time, it appears we are choosing life over freedom.

      I’m glad I experienced real freedom in my life time. I feel sorry for those who never will.

    • Raf: Ridiculous. 10’s of thousands die from the flu each year in the U.S. alone, 500,000 throughout the world. Where’s the annual shutdown for flu season? 50,000 die in cars, millions kill themselves and others with drugs and alcohol. Where’s the shutdown on liquor stores and the ever-growing government sanctioned dope shops? Where’s the shutdown on roads because of drunk and loaded drivers? Where’s the shutdown on politicians that provide taxpayer-funded needles and look sideways as cracked-out druggies take dumps on city sidewalks? This is not a war on saving lives. This is a war on our Constitutional Republic.

      • Gil A: No, your comments are ridiculous – to compare the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to any of the other scenarios which you cite is specious and downright ignorant. They are not the same thing.

        There are vaccines and clearly understood and delineated means to combat influenza. Cars and trucks on the highways serve a vital and necessary role in our economic and social system. Our society accepts and sanctions the responsible consumption of alcohol and the proper use of drugs saves lives and alleviates suffering.

        Does COVID-19 share many attributes with any of these? It is a newly discovered virus, not yet fully understood and with no vaccine yet available. It is not influenza – it is highly infectious and all evidence indicates it is considerably more lethal than influenza.

        It has no benevolent purpose — to date is has killed over 46,000 people worldwide, with many more deaths to come.

        So just what would you suggest should be done?? Or should I suppose that you believe that nothing should be done because, heaven forbid that anyone’s Constitutional rights be abridged — even temporarily — in order to save lives??

        The reality is, whether you chose to accept it or not, there is no known way to limit the lethal march of this virus throughout these United States except to limit person to person contact ACROSS THE ENTIRE NATION. And if the country doesn’t choose to follow that course, then God help us. Many more will die needlessly.

        This is not about the Constitution or personal freedom — it’s about doing what is necessary to save lives. It’s about all of us together putting the needs of the whole above the needs of the individual.

        When this country has gone to war, men and women have stepped forward and made sacrifices — sacrificing their personal liberty and much more in some cases — for the sake of the common good.

        So please tell us again that this is not a war on saving lives. Tell us about how you think this current crisis is some kind of conjured up spectacle designed by leftists to assault the Constitution.

        And I would answer: ridiculous.

      • We won’t know until we know, exactly how deadly this new virus us. It might not be as deadly as it initially appears. But it *is* hospitalizing a lot of people, even if they don’t die, and *that* is where the real strain is.

        But for the sake of argument, lets say that this virus has effectively the same effect as the seasonal flu does. That is *on top of* the season flu, automotive deaths, and drug and alcohol ODs. Plus, without a vaccine no one has immunity, so it will continue to spread and hospitalize people until either: a) we slow its transmission, or b) a vaccine is developed and *enough people* take the vaccine (if I recall, you need around 90% of people to be vaccinated for there to be effective herd immunity).

        I don’t like these stay-at-home rules anymore than anyone else (in fact, I really hate it), but these rules appear to be having an effect on slowing transmission, and the faster we can slow it down, the faster we can get back to normal.

  21. To put this in an aviation perspective, the way I see this as being handled is as if after the first events of 9/11 happened, only the airspace in the northeast was shut down. Then as other planes crashed, airspace in that area got shut down. And then each individual airspace made its own rules about what flying was allowed, and when operations go back to normal. Imagine what people (and pilots’) reactions would have been if that was the case; I’m pretty sure it’d be much like what we’re seeing now. And the longer this mixed and inconsistent messaging continues, the harder it will be to get things under control, and the less likely people are going to do the right thing. Which is exactly what we’re seeing with the inconsistent stay-at-home orders: people ignoring the orders. And that’s why people are talking about lifting them because they “aren’t doing any good”. That’s true, but only because people are ignoring them.

    So where does that leave flight training? Not in a very good position, is my view, because there’s no clear guidance about what should be done. Not that it matters in my local area, because most pilots have stopped flying, even by themselves, so there’s no one to instruct to begin with.

    I just hope that we don’t find a lot of flight schools out of business at the end of this, because it took so much longer to resolve than it should have.

    • “I just hope that we don’t find a lot of flight schools out of business at the end of this, because it took so much longer to resolve than it should have.”

      Is there a fast(er) solution? Please share. As I write this, we’re (allegedly) sending aircraft carriers back to port.

      • The delayed response in testing, the lack of a national stay-at-home order, and inconsistent messaging has almost certainly cost people their health, and is only serving to prolong the effects. Sadly, the US has been “outgunned” in its response to this virus.

        There may not be a “faster” solution, but there is certainly a slower solution.

        • The only testing delays that I’m aware of, are those caused by lack of testing supplies. That’s been – and is being – addressed, as rapidly as manufacturing capacity allows.

          A national stay-at-home order is an interesting idea.

          Inconsistent messaging is a result of multiple sources, and of continuously-changing knowledge about the virus. “Developing news,” as they say.

          Your home state is in a pickle, with Fairfield County a reflection of nearby NYC and Long Island. It’s not a lot better, here; there’s talk of turning my hometown Eastern States Colosseum into the official Massachusetts Covid-19 morgue. We should know a lot more by May. Meanwhile, I’m wasting plenty of time at the CAD screen… Nuthin’ to do, and plenty of time to do it.

          • The president does not have the authority to issue a “stay at home” order. It would be a violation of the 10th and 14th amendment. Now if Congress were to issue a “declaration of war” on this pandemic, that would change things dramatically. Fat chance of that happening.

            For those who feel that sacrificing the constitutional rights is ok in this situation I ask where do you drawn the line. Once down this slippery slope where or how do you stop! And what assurance do we have after all this is over that those rights will be restored? Look at all of the 9/11 related rules that are still limiting GA after 19 years?

  22. Well, if nothing else, COVID-19 has proven the pilot community is certainly not a monolithic opinion bloc.

  23. ‘In the U.S.A., wars are fought to gain freedom, or, to preserve freedom.’

    Wars are always power struggles over values, not freedom. Freedom is always limited to or expanded on by the values of the group in power. One group’s freedom is another group’s slavery. True freedom is the ability to adapt to the ever- changing consciousness of values and amend laws if necessary to the changes. There is no tension felt by anyone or any group with true freedom.

    Covid-19 is giving the world an opportunity to re-examine its values in many areas of freedom, social awareness, and social responsibility as in the right to publicly assemble during a pandemic mentioned by some here. Time will reveal if the world is ready to look toward true freedom or not.

    • “Time will reveal if the world is ready to look toward true freedom or not” and “re-examine its values in many areas of freedom, social awareness, and social responsibility as in the right to publicly assemble…”. So what’s your definition of true freedom? Spoon fed by the Great State? I am simply stunned.

  24. Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    • Gil, if you’re ever in a piece of airspace that I’d like to claim the liberty to be in, for the safety of myself, my passengers, people on the ground, and even you, I’ll deny myself the liberty of occupying it till you have vacated it. I hope you’d do the same for me. Should I cease being genuinely worried that you wouldn’t?

    • Inter arma enim silent leges.
      If temporarily giving up some liberty means keeping the numbers in the thousands instead of millions of deaths (like with the 1918 pandemic), I’m ok with that. It would be insane to do nothing, and I don’t think Franklin ever had a pandemic in mind when he said that.

  25. Hopefully individual and small business support program will provide some immediate relief, but for me the scary question is this the beginning of the end for GA ?

    It appears likely the economy won’t recover anytime soon and so with most people a lot poorer, who will be able to afford recreational flying ?

    Also I thing it will accelerate the decline of mom and pop small flight schools in favour of paint by big integrated numbers pilot puppy mills catering to the demand for more children of the magenta by commercial/corporate operators.

    Those schools by definition have no interest in training recreational pilots

  26. Second sentence in the third para got messed up. Should read ……“in favour of big integrated paint by numbers pilot puppy mills ….”

  27. What about this situation:

    Swan Lake Flight Centre is in Florida. It is in, let’s say, Grapefruit County. It is a 141 school with mostly foreign students. 60/40 mix let’s say. The operations area, hangar, and dormitory are all colocated in the same building. Let’s say 10 – 30 students at any given time. A dozen in the dorms.

    There is another flight school, Puzzle Aeronautical University, let’s call it. In Volusia County. It is a large private university. Industry leader.

    COVID-19 comes along. To Florida. The Governor, a good free-market capitalist, realises the longer we give businesses to take in revenue, the less painful the shutdown is going to be. This seems especially true as there is no evidence of the virus in rural areas at this time. Grapefruit County and Volusia County also put off stay-at-home guidelines. Counties in hot-spot parts of the state enact stay-at-home guidelines locally.

    Some of the state-run flight centres at local colleges decide to cease training. After all, tax payer’s deep pockets will still be there when they decide to reopen. Puzzle and Swan Lake decide to continue training, but Puzzle does close its dorms.

    Let’s say last week there is an asian student at Swan Lake that has flu-like symptoms. Doesn’t get tested. Everyone decides to dismiss it as ‘food poisoning’.

    Let’s say a couple of days ago the Governor issues a stay-at-home order. Puzzle’s in-house counsel interprets the order as them needing to shutdown flight ops, and issues a notice similar to this one:


    Swan Lake is a private school. For-Profit. So the accounting equation applies:

    Assets = Liability + Owner’s Equity.

    And salary, as we all know, is a direct debit of Owner’s Equity.

    Swan Lake decides to take a broad view of the Executive Order, and continue flying. After all, if this shutdown lasts too long, they may not be able to keep the lights on. Or, with a looming recession, it is better to bring in as much revenue as possible before closing the doors.

    So now, today, their doors are open, their dorms are full, and they are flying. So, the dorms have become a possible cluster of…’food poisoning’. The flight instructors don’t live in the dorms. The flight instructors are arriving on property each morning, and leave the property every evening, going back into the native community.

    I pose this first question: Should Swan Lake suspend training? If so, for what reason? If not, for what reason?

    I pose this second question: If Swan Lake is an LLC, are the FIs protected from possible litigation? Corporate veil and all.