“This, too, shall pass…” said my neighbor, Bill Chernish, who flies for Southwest Airlines. His industry is unusually battered by the coronavirus pandemic. His serene, forward-looking view is refreshing amidst the fear seen everywhere you look.
Despite his calm, turmoil is widespread. Some hotels are are operating at only 10% occupancy. Numerous reports put airlines seats as one third to two thirds empty, a far cry from the nearly-or-every-seat-taken experience of recent years. Woes of the lodging and transportation industries are matched by many others.
For everyone around the globe, the word “coronavirus” — or the clumsier “Covid-19” disease it causes — remains the major topic of conversation. Rarely has the globe seen one theme so thoroughly dominate all the peoples of the planet. What comes next?
I have no crystal ball, but comments on social media brightened my outlook. Perhaps you can feel similarly.
A recent Facebook post was accompanied by a selfie photo of a pilot flying solo, clearly enjoying himself with a caption something like: “I find many of my favorite hobbies involve social distancing.”
I grinned at his use of the new ubiquitous phrase, but in the background of his image, the sky looked beautiful and his obvious joy at being aloft was a welcome change of pace from the nonstop bummer news.
Another great online comment was posted by Jabiru importer, Scott Severen, who reasoned that flying your Light-Sport Aircraft — or Sport Pilot kit aircraft or Part 103 Ultralight — is a great way to have a look at the countryside. Same for traveling while the airlines are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Faster LSA are good for covering some real distance, and flying yourself sure beats waiting in TSA lines that have stretched to seven hours in some extreme cases, or getting on an airliner with a group of strangers even if seats are not all full these days.
Scott’s hopeful forecast included: “Industry might see an uptick as small aircraft are terrific for regional travel.” He says they can be a time saver (think: no TSA).
Further he notes, “Traveling by LSA is more ‘point-to-point’ with local airports generally closer to the destination. Our smaller aircraft can access most every airport in the USA.”
Even during this tough period, when I called Scott for permission to use his words, he was completing a Jabiru sale.
Finally, Scott observed, “Lower interest rates are opening the selection of aircraft for those looking at an acquisition… aircraft buyers can help stabilize the economy.”
I love the point of Scott’s comments, which might be surmised as: When all you have are lemons, make lemonade.
Get Happier Today
After you are worn out from self-quarantining, social distancing, incessantly washing your hands, searching in vain for masks and hand sanitizer (and toilet paper), and perusing infection rate charts, you can do aviation-oriented things.
Since nearly every media outfit is publishing advice about how to stay healthy (that’s good!), I want to encourage you to stay happy as well. Here are some ideas:
- Read more aviation publications, as well as check out aviation websites — online resources are 100% coronavirus-free.
- Watch more YouTube such as The Ultralight Flyer channel and the ByDanJohnson YouTube channel; no virus at those places, either.
- Go fly! You’ll be out-of-doors, which is good. You’ll get aloft, which is even better. With caution in mind, you should probably skip taking anyone with you; flying solo is great fun and you can’t be exposed. (If the airplane is a shared one, take wipes with you and clean any surface you may have touched.)
- Now might be a great time to buy (as Scott hinted above); he was making sales in late March.
- Go to your shop and work on your aircraft kit, or to your hangar to pull some maintenance. Maybe just give your bird a bath.
- Be aeronautically active in ways that don’t spread infection…it’s good for the local, state, and national economy.
Is doing all this solo too solitary? Here’s a somewhat closer look…
Flying often takes place solo anyway. For years the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) published a statistic stating that the average occupancy of a general aviation airplane — commonly with four seats, sometimes more — was 1.6 persons.
To reach that figure, many flights must have only the pilot on board. To average 1.6 in all aircraft when some may have four people on board, lots of flying has to be solo.
I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I almost prefer solo, when I need not be concerned with the other party.
The stats prove that it is not unusual to go flying on your own and it certainly meets the CDC’s advice that you practice social distancing.
As I completed this article, I was serenaded by the low rumble of aircraft engines and the whir of spinning props because people at my home airport are out pursuing exactly the kind of flying I am advocating. I hope you, too, can enjoy your freedom to fly. If not today, soon. Go! Fly!
Why are you still reading and not headed out to the airport? I have my keys in my recently-washed hands. See you aloft — at a distance.
Some States Are Quarantining
As this was written, California, New York, Ohio and authorities in other states have announced they want everyone to stay home and shelter-in-place.
I am not suggesting you violate rules, so pilots in some states may not be able exercise their chance to aviate, even if they do so with an abundance of caution.
Please check with your local recommendations and exercise your own best judgment, but if you believe you can go fly without spreading infection, I encourage you to do so. However, keep in mind symptoms do not reveal themselves for days after you may become infected. If any doubt exists, you should keep some distance from others, even out of doors.
I am able to say that at my home airport, I can fly without needing to even see another person. After I do so, I can use sanitizing wipes to clean all surfaces I touched. Since most pilots repeat familiar routines during preflight and when they fly, they probably know every surface they touched. The same counsel goes for hangar door controls and other locations where you may have touched surfaces shared with others.
If you can be safe and doing so will not get you in trouble with authorities, use your skills to get some well-deserved relief.
From 1,000 feet or more aloft, the world will look remarkably free of the confusion and conflict we find on terra firma.