FAA releases more guidance to help slow the spread of Covid-19
The FAA has issued more guidelines to keep us all safe amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
An updated Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) provides the latest guidance on how to reduce the risk of aircrew exposure to Covid-19, and decrease the risk of transmission of the virus while onboard an aircraft.
I’m not exactly sure what has changed since the last SAFO was published, but it’s not a bad idea to review the new guidance anyway. Obviously, the FAA highly discourages crewmembers from flying when they are experiencing a fever, cough, shortness of breath or after having tested positive for the virus. Those are no brainers. But what do we do when the crew (or passengers) are asymptomatic?
For one thing, the FAA recommends that crew members stay home for 14 days if they have been exposed to the virus. This, of course, is because it is so difficult to isolate a symptomatic person while airborne, but also because it’s extremely challenging for a crew member to find a safe place to quarantine when he/she is potentially thousands of miles from home.
They also recommend that all crewmembers wear cloth face masks while in public places, but want pilots to be mindful of the regulations regarding the use of oxygen masks in flight.
The FAA wants individual companies to create their own Covid-19 Preparedness Plans. That may be a bit more complicated than the others. The plans must include provisions for:
- Remaining in contact with all crewmembers,
- Educating crew members about the virus, including symptoms,
- Screening crewmembers for symptoms,
- Ensuring that exposed crewmembers know what to do before they can return to work,
- And when crewmembers must be excluded from work.
There is also guidance for minimizing the exposure that crewmembers will face while on the road, including:
- Providing private transportation to and from hotels,
- Choosing hotels that are close to the airport with rooms that are sanitized before their arrival,
- Providing sufficient amounts of cleaning and disinfecting products,
- Increased frequency of routine aircraft cleaning,
- Deep cleaning of aircraft after each flight,
- Providing adequate amounts of PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment),
- Ensuring that crewmembers are properly trained in the use of the PPE,
- And allowing for the refusal of transport to an infected passenger.
Also included is guidance for the proper notification of authorities if a crewmember becomes ill or tests positive for the virus. This is especially critical if the person was out of the country or not at their home base airport when the positive result was reported.
And finally, all companies should have response plans in place to provide guidance on how to manage a crewmember who is identified as symptomatic or who tests positive while on duty.
It is important to remember that each County, State, and Country may have different regulations in place to handle the Covid-19 virus. Crews must follow the guidance from the relevant authorities wherever they are operating. It’s a turbulent time for the aviation industry; guidance is being revised and updated every time we learn something new about this virus. The FAA’s website, https://www.faa.gov/search/?omni=MainSearch&q=Coronavirus, is always a good place to start if you have any questions about the latest advice or safety recommendations.