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Safe flight ops during Covid-19


Assessing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to keep 
flight operations safe

PlaneSense pilots load luggage into a Pilatus PC-24. Private air travel offers advantages, like avoiding crowded commercial airline flights.
At the onset of 2020, all of us at PlaneSense were looking forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of the PlaneSense fractional program. We have come a long way since we received our first Pilatus PC-12 in September of 1995.

Since then, we’ve accomplished more than 440,000 flight hours and taken delivery of 72 PC-12s, 5 Pilatus PC-24s, and 4 Nextant 400XTi jets.

We built a state-of-the-art facility, developed comprehensive pilot and maintenance technician training programs, launched a sophisticated jet program, and expanded the reach of our fractional program successfully.

However, the unforeseen events that unfolded made this milestone year one of the most challenging yet. As we approached the anniversary this past September, I was struck by our resilience through the pandemic, and I couldn’t be more proud of the company we have become.

By following the practices that have allowed us to remain strong through the decades, we are poised to once again rise above an unfathomable challenge to our industry – much like we did in the fiscal challenges of 2001 and the Great Recession of 2008.

PlaneSense is not immune to the negative effect that Covid-19 has had across the aviation industry. Like other programs, a dramatic drop in flight volumes affected the company as the pandemic unfolded.

Being a data-driven organization, we began gathering information to help us understand and cope with the situation. Initially, the key issue facing both our company and the industry was incredible uncertainty.

The virus was new and had yet to be thoroughly studied. We did not fully understand its public health implications, nor did we know how to protect ourselves from it.

To best protect our clients and staff, we contacted immediately a leader in infectious diseases from Johns Hopkins University. We have been consulting with him regularly since March, and his expert insights have helped us to stay informed on best practices in preventing transmission of the virus.

This is a dynamic process, as every week brings new information. We have remained responsible for our actions by drawing on this collaboration to develop prevention protocols. Like others, PlaneSense adopted immediately new and extensive cleaning protocols and disinfection methods for our aircraft.

We removed overnight stays for crews in hotspot regions, made masks mandatory for all staff and clients – both in our facilities and airplanes – and increased control measures entering our facilities. In order to maintain safe and excellent communication channels, we converted quickly to remote work, making video conference the norm.

At the onset of the crisis, we made a commitment to our staff to stay fully operational and immediately began cost control measures. I’m proud to have been able to avoid layoffs and furloughs across the company. Our team remains intact, conducting business through remote operations and dedicated teams in the hangar and cockpits safely and successfully.

During this slower time, we ourselves did not slow down. Instead, we took the opportunity to continue pilot and mechanic training, as well as regular maintenance on the fleet in preparation for a return to more normal flight levels. Each department was also tasked with assessing its operations for both fiscal and process improvements.

Around the world, business travel came to a halt. There were no client meetings, no events, no conferences to attend. Businesses shut down and companies learned how to conduct business remotely, all but ceasing corporate travel.

However, as the risk of transmission led many travelers to avoid airports and the airlines, the need to reach family or conduct other essential travel did increase. According to McKinsey and Company, a commercial flight typically involves approximately 620 points of contact with people and objects that could transmit infection.

Private travel involves only 20 to 30 touchpoints. Travelers recognized quickly the advantages offered by business aircraft, and the importance of avoiding crowded airline terminals and flights. As such, interest in private aviation increased steadily throughout Q2 2020. Along with the industry as a whole, PlanseSense saw an quick uptick in leads from travelers who were new to private aviation.

As a consequence, the activity of the PlaneSense fleet operations has increased over the past several months, approaching similar flight volumes of this time in 2019. Our commitment to keeping clients and staff safe has not wavered, and we continue to assess the pandemic situation daily.

I am appreciative for the patience of our staff, and for their ideas and willingness to work differently to reach our goals.

Despite its vast reach around the world, aviation is truly a small community where many of us share a passion for the art of flying and transporting our clients safely.

Whether one works as a pilot, ATC staff, mechanic, administrator, or other equally important role, we all want to see this industry succeed. I’m proud of this industry for staying strong and finding ways to thrive in the most difficult 
of times.

Stay positive, test negative!

George Antoniadis
Founder, Pres & CEO, PlaneSense