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Travel Health & Safety Blog

COVID-19 and Idle Ops


COVID-19 continues to disrupt domestic and international aviation operations and the outcome remains uncertain and unknowable. What then do we know, and how can we best prepare for the eventual return to normalcy, however modest or robust?

While we observe and analyse the evolving situation, many operators sit idle, which, while frustrating, affords opportunities to revisit crucial tasks, projects, and training that may have been delayed or deferred prior to COVID-19. Among these might be examining administrative, safety, security, maintenance, and operational policies and procedures.

Or, perhaps a more in-depth assessment could be related to SMS and the organization’s ERP. This down-time might be an optimal opportunity to schedule various virtual trainings and drills, table-tops and simulations related to emergency response and crisis management.

As the pandemic and crisis continues to spread, the current lens through which we can view our operations might be the ideal opportunity to scrutinize previous assumptions and test them against the backdrop of our new reality.


This is the time to reflect and prepare for the post COVID-19 world. This framework should position your organization to seize not only current opportunities but position you to begin operations in a greater state of readiness and resilience as the threat of COVID-19 subsides and we return to flying.


We do not often spend enough time thinking and reflecting. We instead allow our busy schedules to dictate our day, and we often reactively respond from task-to-task, substituting routine and ad hoc business for productivity. Consider:

  • With a forced operational pause, schedule time in your day to simply think and practice mindfulness in order to uncover high-value tasks and projects for individual, team, and organizational improvement.
  • Read and study. Catch-up on literature/ publications relevant to your craft and other aspects of your personal and professional life. This may generate ideas useful in both capacities.
  • Connect with professional and personal peers to discuss common issues, concerns, etc. This has the dual effect of helping us socialize in the current restricted environment and uncover useful ideas for general and targeted improvement.
  • Ask what is working well, what can be improved, and what are some actions that can be taken to address organizational problems and deficiencies.
  • Formulate solutions to address these problems. While some suggestions may be unrealistic, others will be useful and instructive.



This is an opportune time to conduct a thorough review of organizational policies, practices, procedures, and protocols. Although potentially tedious, this exercise will likely yield useful insight into the organization’s operations and those deficiencies previously obscured by our busy schedules.

  • Put the findings you uncovered during reflection into context. When, for example, was the last time your organization scrutinized, audited, and updated governing policies, manuals, and instructions? Often, these documents can be fixtures adorning a shelf simply left to collect dust.
  • Assess the organization’s practices and culture. Are there negative issues that need to be addressed and remedied? What positives need to be reinforced, and is there any alignment required with broader organizational practices and culture?
  • Take inventory of the organization’s internal and external partners. How can these stakeholders help and support this process? Ensure they are adequately integrated into organizational processes for the current situation and upon return to normal operations.



Once armed with data identified during the reflection and review process you can better prepare for any current opportunities – charter & repatriation flights, cargo operations, medevac, etc. – and position the organization to rapidly resume normal operations as COVID-19 begins to subside. To that end:

  • Evaluate roles and functions within the organization, especially responsibilities such as safety and security. Streamline and integrate all aspects of the organization into these critical areas from administrative support, dispatchers, to director level management and, if possible, key executives.
  • Complete delayed or deferred training to the maximum extent possible. This might be security awareness training, safety case studies, medical recertifications, simulations and table-top exercises, drills, etc. In the current environment much of this may have to be conducted virtually.
  • Revise the emergency response plan (ERP), taking lessons learned from COVID-19. Scrutinize not only the ERP but how it might link to a corporate business continuity plan (BCP) as it relates to significant crises. Honestly assess if the organization would have been prepared to respond to a COVID-19-like event should crew and assets have been affected, especially in an international context. This is the ideal time to consider the inconceivable and plan for the next global event and crisis.


COVID-19 may be unique in some respects, but these types of events will strike again. In a globalized world and economy with tightly networked lines of communication, this is a near certainty. What we cannot know is the “what, where, and when” of the next crisis. We can, however, use the current pandemic to frame the next event and extract as many lessons as possible, extrapolate others, and test organizational policies, plans, and protocols.

With this operational pause there may be no better time to shift some capacity to reflect, review and prepare for the next crisis. This should also be done in conjunction with, if possible, larger organizational crisis management plans and BCP.

The above framework offers a guide, but should you need support, connect with your peers, professional organizations, other internal organizational departments, or a trusted partner and consultant. COVID-19 will eventually pass into memory, but residual effects will likely persist. The question, then, is not if but when and how prepared your organization will be for the next crisis?

Author: John Cauthen. MedAire Security Director and member of the NBAA Security Council. MedAire provides business and general aviation operators with medical, travel safety and aviation security information and assistance.


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