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FAA Takes Steps To Address The Effects Of COVID-19 On The Aviation Industry

Actions Include Suspension Of Enforcement Of Expiring Medical Certificates

The FAA is proactively taking steps to help address the widespread economic and health effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the aviation industry. The FAA continues to evaluate a large number of requests from across all aviation industry sectors to help address COVID-19-related effects.

To date, the FAA has taken the following actions:

Air Traffic Control Facilities

The FAA is temporarily closing and thoroughly cleaning air traffic control facilities where employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Every air traffic control facility in the country (PDF) has a contingency plan (PDF) to keep air traffic moving safely when events impede normal operations. In some cases, this means transferring duties to adjacent facilities.

Air Carrier Training Exemptions

The FAA granted certain training exemptions to scheduled and on-demand air carriers due to the unprecedented circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The exemptions give operators grace periods for completing certain training and qualification requirements, and give crewmembers relief from having to don protective breathing equipment or oxygen masks in training, checking, or evaluation. The exemptions can be viewed at www.regulations.gov. The docket numbers are FAA-2020-0291; FAA-2020-0292; FAA-2020-0307; and FAA-2020-0308.

Pilot Medical Certificates

The FAA will not take enforcement action against certain pilots or flight engineers who fly with medical certificates that expire between March 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020. COVID-19 is placing a severe burden on the U.S. healthcare system. Requiring pilots to undergo in-person medical examinations would further stress the healthcare system, and would increase the risk of transmitting the virus through personal contact between the doctor and the applicant.

Airport Slot-Use Waivers

The FAA is temporarily waiving minimum slot-use requirements at U.S. airports to help airlines that cancel flights due to the Coronavirus. Under normal circumstances, airlines can lose their slots at congested airports if they don’t use them at least 80 percent of the time. The FAA is waiving the 80-percent-use requirement through May 31, 2020 for U.S. and foreign airlines that have affected flights, and is proposing to extend the waiver through Oct. 24, 2020.

FAA Construction Projects

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has temporarily stopped most construction projects at agency facilities to ensure the safety of employees, contractors and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency is continuing projects that are in critical phases and would affect operations or safety if not completed. For now, the FAA is delaying the start of new projects. Design work on future projects will continue.  

Airport Construction Projects

The FAA is working with airport sponsors across the country to determine the impacts COVID-19 is having on current and planned airport construction. Airport sponsors and the FAA will review all executed Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants and determine which projects are safety critical, phase of the project, estimated length of project delay, additional costs if the project is delayed, and impacts to overall airport or system operations. The FAA will identify how it may be able prioritize safety-critical projects through funding or process adjustments. The FAA and airport sponsors will work collaboratively to do whatever is reasonably possible to avoid delays in project construction and reduce the delay time when possible. Once a project is ready for construction, the airport owner is responsible for completing construction.

Airport Improvement Program

The FAA is working to ensure there are no delays awarding Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for 2020 because of COVID-19. Employees with the FAA’s Office of Airports are in constant contact with airport sponsors to award all appropriated AIP funds by September 30, 2020. The FAA has worked to automate the AIP process, which enables employees to work remotely and continue to process AIP grants under the current circumstances.

Temporary Parking of Overflow Aircraft

The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to flight reductions throughout the airline industry. As a result, the FAA issued CertAlert #20-02 Temporary Parking of Overflow Aircraft (PDF), for airport operators who are working with airlines on temporary parking plans for their aircraft. The CertAlert contains a list of recommendations an airport operator should consider when making decisions for overflow aircraft parking. To maintain the highest level of safety, the FAA is working with airport operators to ensure additional safety mitigations are put in place for temporary parking of aircraft.

Airport Safety Inspections

The FAA’s airport certification safety inspections will continue within required timeframes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The airport certification safety inspectors will complete inspections by September 30, 2020, as required by Part 139 and FAA Order 5280-5D (PDF). There will be no impact to safety. The inspections will be conducted using social-distancing measures to protect both FAA and airport personnel.

Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools

The FAA is working with staff and students at Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools (AMTS) to allow greater flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FAA’s guidance to AMTS allows deviations from FAA policy on class schedules, electronic delivery of assignments, and the maximum number of absences. Each AMTS school is affected differently, and the FAA is addressing any deviation from policy or regulation on a case-by-case basis.

COVID-19 Information

The FAA is posting extensive information about COVID-19 on its website and on social media. Follow us on Twitter @FAANews, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram for updates.

Sharing Heath Safety Messages

The FAA is amplifying health safety messages from other federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Management Agency, Department of State and Department of Homeland Security.

Pilot Oxygen Mask Requirements

The FAA has amended its cockpit oxygen-mask regulation to reduce the potential for pilots to be exposed to any pathogens that may be on the masks. The amendment fulfills the requirement of Section 579 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

Expanded Drone Operations

The FAA has received inquiries about expanded drone operations to respond to COVID-19. We are addressing the inquiries using our existing Part 135 on-demand certification process. Follow us on Twitter @FAADroneZone and Facebook @FAADroneZone for the latest drone news.

Puerto Rico Flight Restriction Request

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved certain requirements for passenger flights to Puerto Rico to help with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All scheduled and unscheduled commercial air carrier flights will be required to land at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) where public health officials will screen arriving passengers. This includes air carriers that operate under Part 121 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. All domestic and foreign general aviation and charter flights arriving from a location outside Puerto Rico will be required to land first at SJU, Isla Grande Airport (SIG) or Rafael Hernandez Airport (BQN) in Aguadilla for passenger screening before continuing to their final destinations. The restrictions do not apply to air cargo or maintenance flights into Puerto Rico.

(Source: FAA news release)

FMI: www.faa.gov

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