In the first two parts of this series, we recommended using this time to update your Emergency Response Plans, and refreshing or creating manuals you might not have yet. Our third recommendation is to not just move your manuals to a digital platform, but to start taking full advantage of all the benefits of a full digital SMS.
An increasing number of countries are beginning to ease COVID-19 restrictions. While we will be feeling the aftermath of this global health crisis for quite some time, all industries, including aviation, should prepare for when lockdowns lift. Make the most of this time to prepare your operation for the bounce-back.
In the first part of this series, we encouraged you to use this time to close the gaps in your emergency response plan. It’s important to have the necessary tools in place to handle future emergencies, but without updated manuals, your whole enterprise may be at a disadvantage. The second part of this post-pandemic series is centered on updating your operations manuals. In-house reviews, such as updating your manuals, conducting internal audits, and checking your LOAs should be on your annual to do list anyway, so why not take the opportunity during this down time and get a head start?
Catch Up on Paperwork
If you are operating without a digital toolkit, it can be a headache to manage required paperwork. So now is a great time to catch up on all those documents you were previously too busy to complete, finish the manuals you were already working on, and get started on some new ones that have been on your to do list for far too long.
- If you don’t have an Operations Manual yet, it’s time to get one. Whether you’re an FBO, drone operator, or flight department, an Operations Manual supports your organization by standardizing your guidelines, making it that much easier for new and existing employees to perform their duties in line with the way you do things. Without this internal guide, you may be vulnerable to safety or efficiency issues. Keep in mind that an Operations Manual is a lot less daunting than most people realize – it should simply reflect the complexity of your organization.
- Ensure you have the right documents in place to make it easier to stay in compliance with your LOAs. For most LOAs, operators are required to continually ensure their crews have been trained on, have knowledge of, and/or have access to applicable procedures. Having a manual that contains the relevant procedures and is continually kept up to date is the easiest way to demonstrate compliance and avoid findings or even potential fines.
For global operations, this means getting an International Operations and Procedures Manual .
Check When Your Manuals Were Last Issued
When was the last time your manuals were reissued? Since regulations, procedures, and best practices are constantly changing and being revised, it’s essential to make sure your manuals are up to date and you are being notified of important changes. Documentation should be updated on an ongoing constant basis, but certainly at the very least annually.
For example, new regulations became effective just earlier this year requiring RNP-4 and Data Link Letters of Authorization to fly in certain transoceanic airspaces. Have your manuals been updated with this newest guidance?
What about the latest expansions to National Security Sensitive Locations and LAANC for Drones? Both of these were updated with new locations in late 2019.
Audit Your Flight Plans
Flight plans are an essential part of your operation, but the FAA is increasingly finding flight plans have not been filled out correctly. On top of needing them for every flight, your organization must also provide a sample flight plan to obtain certain LOAs. When submitting an LOA application, the FAA will review flight plan codes, specifically in items 10 and 18. Having correct flight plans is critical to ensure uninterrupted flights and smooth LOA applications.
Find out more on how to evaluate your operation with an Internal Audit Program to ensure a culture of continual improvement. For organizations looking to audit their current flight plans, the International Operations and Procedures Manual is a great place to start to review applicable codes and requirements.
Work on Your Letters of Authorization
Applying for LOAs can be a lengthy process – don’t wait until you need one to apply for it. During COVID-19 the FAA and inspectors are still reviewing applications and issuing authorizations. Since it can take several weeks, or even months, to be granted an LOA, start your application before operations are back to full speed.
When applying for an LOA, you’ll need paperwork such as a cover letter, documentation of proper operations procedures, and copies of AFM pages and training certificates, to name a few. Luckily, after these applications are approved, LOAs do not usually expire. This means that unless there are significant operational changes, you will not have to go through this application process for the aircraft again.
The first step is to understand what your organization needs: not every flight department needs every LOA. If you are unsure what to apply for and how, download our free LOA Guide for clear guidance.
Feel free to contact us with any questions –we’re always ready to help.
While countries are slowly beginning to open their doors again as the spread of coronavirus begins to stabilize, the world is going to feel the aftermath of this health crisis for months, perhaps even years, to come. As the lockdown lifts, it will be important for companies to have what they need in place for a smooth return to operations. Now is the time to make sure you are prepared.
One of the most important areas for your operation to focus on when preparing for life after the pandemic, is crisis management. While you may have made it through these trying times, there are still likely to be setbacks on the path to reaching pre-coronavirus levels of operation. On top of that, there are bound to be other emergencies in the future. Part of the new normal means making sure you are ready for all kinds of setbacks.
1. Run a Remote ERP Drill
Like a fire drill, the best way to make sure you have a good ERP is to use it in simulations. You can even execute drills while employees are at home. Here are a few examples of how you can test your ERP:
- Test your procedures for a variety of emergencies: Coronavirus has become a top concern for flight operations; however, there are still other crises that may lead you to activate your ERP. A successful response plan allows you to address any situation, whether on the ground or in the air. For example, what measures do you have in place if an aircraft is forced to make an emergency landing? Do ground operators know the proper protocols for calling security and medical professionals to meet that aircraft once they land? By running through different scenarios, you can pinpoint gaps in your ERP and close them before normal flight services resume.
- Test health procedures: Even when travel begins to pick up, it will still be imperative that your employees know what to do during a health emergency. In the event you have an ill passenger, do you know whom to call? Do your employees know what extra supplies should be available on their aircraft and how to interact with a sick passenger to mitigate the risk of spreading any infection? Now is a great time to ask these questions, while operations are most probably less busy. To get started, you can take our quiz to review your current ERP.
2. Update All Contact Information
In an emergency, speed is essential. Operations cannot afford to waste time searching for the right person to contact. Here’s how to keep your ERP at peak performance:
- Make sure all phone numbers in your ERP are accurate: An ERP should be a living document that adapts as staff members join, leave, or change roles. Take this opportunity to make sure contact information is up to date for each step of your ERP process. For example, do you have direct lines of communication listed for senior flight department managers and company resources? Will users be able to easily contact representatives from a Rescue Coordination Center, NTSP or FAA?
3. Make ERP Instructions Clear to All Team Members
The best ERPs can be initiated by anyone. It is important that your entire team (flight and non-flight positions) know what the very first action in any emergency should be. Here’s how you can prepare your team while they work from home:
- Ask your team to review your initial emergency notification form so they can become familiar with what is on it (Don’t have one? Download ours for free).
Feel free to call us with any questions – we’re always ready to help.
The recent health crisis has disrupted a significant portion of global travel. It is more crucial than ever to have manuals that are up to date to ensure flights are organized and executed as safely as possible.
Are your operations equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and future health emergencies? Take our latest quiz and see how your safety management stacks up.
Due to the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, operators should be examining the policies and procedures they have in place surrounding travel health.
There are many informational resources available that provide solid information on preparing for and responding to travel health concerns; however, piecing the information together and writing a procedure can be a challenge.
We have a few recommendations on where to get started…
For your Flight Operations Manual (FOM) / General Operations Manual (GOM)
We recommend including proactive policies into your FOM or GOM to address these concerns. A good place to start is the preflight planning phase, as the design of your flight may drastically change as you research travel health concerns. Some topics to include are:
Researching travel health concerns at the departure location, destination, and any territories you plan to overfly.
- There are several resources that can be used to identify health concerns. Some examples are the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Additionally, if contracted, utilize your inflight medical service provider as they should have much of this information readily available.
- Read through this guidance and begin compiling information that may affect your flight. Some specific information to watch out for includes best practices to protect passengers and crew, travel restrictions, vaccination requirements and recommendations, screening and quarantine procedures, and any recommended medical support equipment.
Reviewing customs and governmental publications for any travel restrictions pertinent to your departure, destination, and any planned alternates. As seen with the COVID-19 and Ebola outbreaks, there may be restrictions on entry, requirements to arrive at particular airports, and additional information or Form requirements.
Planning potential medical diversion alternates. When the topic of alternate airports is brought up, most think of departure and destination alternates in case of bad weather; however, it is important to consider where crewmembers can land in the event of a medical emergency during the flight, particularly when operating internationally. Some items to consider are:
- What medical services are available? A hospital may not be located near the airport and, in some cases, it may be faster to continue the flight to a different location. Additionally, not all hospitals are equipped to handle all types of emergencies.
- Will the security situation at the diversion airport endanger crewmembers or passengers? Research local security issues and the political climate in advance.
- Will there be a language barrier? It is beneficial to research potential interpreter services at each medical alternate in case they are needed.
Checking First Aid Kits (FAKs) / Emergency Medical Kits (EMKs) to make sure supplies are appropriate to the health situation.
- Include a policy to check the FAKs / EMKs on your aircraft to make sure equipment and medications have not expired.
- Outline policies for acquiring additional medical support equipment (universal precaution kits, medical face masks, hand sanitizers, and other suggestions based on your research).
It is also important to include procedures for crewmembers and passengers to follow during the trip. Some topics to explore are:
- Personal hygiene: Encouraging frequent hand washing, avoiding touching the mouth / eyes / nose with unwashed or un-gloved hands, providing guidance on safe food / catering handling, and including procedures for aircraft cleaning / disinfection. Reinforce that any bodily fluids be treated as they are infectious.
- Considerations for crewmembers while on the ground: Limiting movement and avoiding public transportation when in areas that have been identified to have a heightened risk of infectious disease.
- Outlining procedures for crewmembers to identify a crewmember or passenger with a potentially communicable illness and report it to Air Traffic Control (ATC). The United States’ CDC has a webpage that lists symptoms and signs to be alert for.
For your Safety Management System (SMS)
An SMS lends itself well to evaluating travel health concerns, since an SMS is all about assessing and managing risk. Since the risk mitigation process will be similar to assessing a risk of a different nature, you may not have to adjust your SMS procedures; however, there are a few things to keep in mind:
First, perform a risk assessment. Will the risk level be too high? What mitigations can be put in place to lower the risk? Are there adequate resources available to execute these mitigations? Use the information you are gathering in the preflight planning process to support this risk assessment. You may also want to involve corporate / company resources and your Accountable Executive in these discussions.
If a location you frequently operate to is affected by a longer-term travel health concern, you should update your company’s Safety Risk Profile. Ensure the additional risk is captured and record any mitigations that can be used for future trips.
Lastly, if a travel health issue does arise during the trip, make sure it is reported per your incident and hazard reporting process. Perform a root cause analysis to discover why mitigations were ineffective and make modifications to them for the future. This is crucial to preclude a recurrence.
For your Emergency Response Plan (ERP)
The ERP will be key in responding to a travel health or medical emergency. These procedures will make sure everyone is aware of what needs to be done for a successful response.
A good place to start is to verify that any contact information in your ERP is up-to-date. This will benefit you not only in the event of a travel health emergency, but for any emergency type.
Specific to travel health emergencies, it may be easier to create procedures by breaking up the response into what crewmembers should do inflight and what personnel should do on the ground.
For an inflight medical emergency, evaluate your procedures to make sure personnel are well aware of:
- The resources at their disposal. This can include training in First Aid, aircraft equipment that can be used while diverting (the FAK / EMK, therapeutic oxygen / walk-around bottle, and universal precaution kits), contacting an inflight medical service provider (if contracted), medical diversion alternate options and considerations, and coordinating with ATC for the ground response upon landing.
- Who will be doing what. This will vary based on your aircraft crewmember composition (particularly if Flight Attendants are carried) and is critical to define. Consider who is trained and authorized to perform first aid, who will be communicating with an inflight medical service provider, who will be discussing options with ATC, and what to do if a crewmember is incapacitated.
- What the crewmembers should do if a communicable illness is identified onboard. Reinforce discussing the concern with ATC as they can coordinate with the appropriate resources to ensure an appropriate response when you land.
Make sure you have policies for ground-based medical emergencies. This should not be limited to crewmembers on a trip – these emergencies can also occur at home base.
- Similar to the inflight procedures, make sure personnel are aware of resources at their disposal (FAK locations, AED locations, etc.).
- Make sure emergency services contact information is widely known. This is particularly important for crewmembers when on an international trip, as the emergency services phone number may not be the same as it is back home.
- Outline who will accompany an injured or ill individual to the hospital.
- Review emergency contact information with your team to make sure it is still accurate. Additionally, make sure your ERP is clear on who is authorized to contact and provide support to emergency contacts and families of affected individuals.
- If a required crewmember is injured or ill while on a trip, make sure you have considerations on how to move the passengers, other crewmembers, and relocate the aircraft. This may involve flying in an additional supporting crewmember, coordinating with an airline, or utilizing a contract crewmember.
If your flight department is designed to support a corporate backing, make sure you develop these policies and procedures in conjunction with the parent company. The corporate side will most likely have established policies and procedures and/or a business continuity plan, and it is important that your procedures do not conflict. The coordination will also serve to reassure the corporate side that you have been researching and have a plan of action in place just in case an emergency occurs.
Lastly, plan a drill to practice these procedures and identify weak-points. Involve as many resources as you can, including your whole flight department, corporate personnel (if applicable), medical services, airport authorities, and emergency responders. This not only helps strengthen your plan, but also provides reassurance to your team as they have been trained to respond.
Need help with any of the above? We would be happy to support you. Contact us today.
In recent years, the world has seen a number of epidemics: SARS in 2002, swine flu or H1N1 in 2009, the Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016. Now, COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is rapidly advancing across continents. Stores have been selling out of hand sanitizer, companies are taking steps to let employees work from home and are discouraging unnecessary travel, and industry events are being cancelled – even the Louvre has shut its doors to the public.
To prevent the spread of the disease, authorities have advised taking extra precautions when travelling. What does this mean for your operation? How can you prepare for an epidemic, and what measures can you take to mitigate concerns?
Vigilance before, during, and after your flight
If you can’t avoid travelling, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
1. Before your flight
Try to avoid flying into affected regions. If you have the option of meeting remotely, changing your destination, or delaying your meeting, you may save yourself a lot of trouble while also protecting yourself and loved ones from exposure.
If you can’t avoid the area, be sure that part of your preflight planning is to review what authorities are saying about health-related data in the region you’re flying into. Some useful resources are:
- World Health Organization (WHO) – The WHO provides a list of countries and health profiles
- EASA Safety Publications Tool
- Center for Disease Control (CDC) – While the CDC is a US agency, their travel destination advice may be beneficial to operators around the world
- International Air Transport Association (IATA) – health and safety page
Your Flight Operations Manual can help you with your pre-flight planning research.
|NOTE: If you are flying to regions with known COVID-19 infections, keep in mind that your crew and passengers may be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days upon return and prepare accordingly.|
Make sure your crew and passengers have up to date vaccinations and that they are aware of which ones they have to acquire when travelling to a particular region.
Locate suitable and safe airports for an emergency landing in advance of the flight. If you’re flying over a remote area, like a polar or desert region, you may not have medical support readily available.
Finally, prepare and review your escape plan. In the event you would need to suddenly evacuate your crew and passengers from your destination, having a plan at hand will help you coordinate your steps to leave as quickly as possible while mitigating the risks of spreading the disease or becoming infected. You will want to consider factors such as flight crew becoming ill, potential limitations to airports of entry, and best practices upon landing. These procedures should be integrated into your Emergency Response Plan (ERP).
2. During your flight
When it comes to in-flight health and safety, there are a number of preventative measures you can take.
Most important during any kind of epidemic, including COVID-19, is to make sure you wash your hands frequently and correctly. Proper handwashing should be done with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds or long enough to sing Happy Birthday, or some of the suggestions from this viral Twitter thread.
In addition, bring additional supplies such as face masks, disinfectants and wipes, a disease kit, and keep your first-aid kit fully stocked. Check expiry dates! Take care when touching surfaces multiple people come into contact with, like now widely used touch screens, since some viruses can survive extended periods on common surfaces.
|NOTE: For COVID-19, face masks are most effective when worn by someone who is suspected of being infected. If you believe a crew member or passenger has been infected, ensure they are provided with a face mask before non-infected individuals.|
For catering, make sure food is kept at the right temperature and handled with gloves and utensils to prevent food poisoning and cross-contamination. Verify that any seals placed on food containers by the catering vendor are intact prior to consumption. Ensure that anyone handling food or dishes has washed their hands to prevent the spread of viruses.
3. Upon arrival
Once you’re in your destination country, keep an eye on the real-time developments by checking news updates. Maintain basic hygiene standards, such as washing your hands and keeping a safe distance from people who are showing symptoms. Try to avoid large crowds and consider limiting the number of places you visit and staying in your hotel or residence.
Keep the contact details of your crew and passengers on hand so you can reach out at a moment’s notice. Take the time to find out where local hospitals or emergency centers are. Finally, know your insurance policy, in case you need to be repatriated.
4. If someone falls ill
Despite taking precautions, one of your crew or passengers may still become sick. Whether it happens mid-flight or after you’ve landed, you need to know the necessary procedures. Normally, your ERP should cover this.
- In the air
Your crew should know who is doing what when it comes to first aid. If you have a Flight Attendant present, you’ll have a little more flexibility than with a one or two-pilot crew. Know what to do in case a crew member is incapacitated.
Engage with a medical service provider, such as Medaire, for additional assistance.
Communicate with Air Traffic Control in case you need to schedule an emergency landing, or if you require medical equipment and personnel upon arrival. Keep your emergency procedures written down and available to use.
|NOTE: If you suspect a specific infection like COVID-19, be sure to let ATC know so the airport of landing can prepare extra health-related measures if required. A number of large airports are developing quarantine procedures and locations.|
- On the ground – for flights and at home base
Have a set procedure in place identifying who will or can provide first aid and who will be responsible for calling emergency services. Although pilots generally have first aid training, look into providing this to your ground operations and maintenance teams as well. Being well-versed in your ERP can save precious minutes.
No matter the size of your operation, everyone should follow the same steps and procedures. A smaller company may have fewer resources readily available, but may be able to rely on third-party handlers to help out.
Vigilance for FBOs and ground operations
For operations on the ground, and Fixed Based Operators (FBOs), travel-related health is also an issue. FBOs are constantly receiving aircraft from around the world and their personnel are meeting and interacting with a multitude of people. There a few things your team should prepare for.
Ensure all employees frequently and properly wash hands. During viral outbreaks (such as the flu) consider alternatives to handshakes.
Have masks on hand so you can make them available to arriving crews and passengers, as requested.
If you are in an area at high risk of infection transmission, monitor your team for symptoms.
|NOTE: If your operation is in an area with known COVID-19 infections and an employee begins to exhibit symptoms, have them wear a mask, seek medical attention, and avoid coming to work until a medical professional determines it is safe for them to return.|
Lastly, you will want to prepare for potential staff shortages or temporary closings. If someone on your team becomes infected it may spread to multiple team members or health officials may force the closure of your office until it can be disinfected.
With the highly connected world of today, travel-related health concerns are likely here to stay. You can be ready for these types of situations by addressing them in your company’s Operations Manuals, Emergency Response Plan, and Safety Management System (SMS). Include these types of elements of risk in your Safety Risk Profile, your Incident / Hazard Reports, and Risk Assessments. Even if an outbreak hasn’t directly impacted your organization, it’s still an existing risk you can mitigate by evaluating its severity.
If you want to know more about how an SMS can help your organization, take a look at ARC, our Safety Management System software. Any questions? Contact us. We can help update your ERP, FOM, or IOM to cover these situations.