The paper focuses on the effects the Covid-19 pandemic has on the civil aviation sphere and how these effects are managed to avoid the most undesired outcomes and critical deterioration of airlines’ functioning. The threat linked to the virus preconditioned severe limits on the sphere’s operations to stop the further spread of the disease. The document outlines the main challenges the aviation industry faces today because of the aircraft and crew no in active operation, regulatory measures, and strategies used by various agencies to control the situation and outcomes.
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Moreover, there is a discussion of the UAE segment, interventions, and changes recommended to guarantee the preservation of the desired effectiveness and the absence of accidents because of the pause and limits preconditioned by the need to stop the further growth in Covid-19 rates. The main problems and recommendations are discussed, and at the end of the paper, conclusions are offered.
The aviation industry has an outstanding significance in the modern world. The focus on globalization and improve international cooperation contributes to the growing importance of civil aviation as one of the tools used by companies, agencies, or governments to attain their goals. Moreover, the necessity of civil aviation is proven by the fact that the number of passengers and flights grows every year. Statistics show that 925.5 million individuals used services of various airlines globally in 2019 (ICAO, 2020).
This number also means that the industry is attractive for investors because of the opportunity to generate significant revenue and benefits. However, the income levels are directly linked to the stable functioning of the sphere as idle or shut-down time will cost a lot due to the costs needed to maintain aircraft in storage and support the high level of crew’s preparedness. It means that regarding the Covid-19 pandemic the world experiences today, civil aviation becomes one of the most vulnerable industries as its functioning should be altered to stop the virus’ spread. The reduction in the number of flights becomes a critical problem for airlines.
The high level of globalization peculiar to the modern world and supported by the constantly evolving aviation sphere can be viewed as a two-edged sword. Along with the multiple benefits it guarantees, there is also a significant risk of spreading infectious diseases due to the uncontrolled migration or accessibility of flights to broad population groups (ICAO, 2020). In such a way, regardless of all attempts to stop the pandemic, civil aviation became one of the forces that promoted its spread.
For this reason, the necessity of new regulations on how to function in terms of the complex international situation became evident. The ban on international flights is a potent measure that can help to avoid future deterioration; however, it demands appropriate strategies for how to function and maintain aircraft and crew in the desired conditions. Moreover, a substantial airline revenue loss, which is about $314 billion, creates additional difficulty (ICAO, 2020). It means that the industry faces an unprecedented challenge today.
Considering the information provided above, the paper aims at answering several questions. First, it outlines the basic challenges peculiar to the aviation sphere today and how they can be managed. Second, the work delves into the main measures required by regulatory agencies to ensure that the industry can return to service safety. Third, the paper reviews the global and UAE regulations needed to ensure the stable functioning of the sphere and its ability to recover regarding the harm done by Covid-19.
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The choice of these issues is justified by several factors. Aviation remains a strategic element of the modern world, and its stable functioning is vital for further evolution. Second, the current crisis introduces the most severe challenges that should be overcome to avoid fatal damage to the industry. Third, the spread of coronavirus becomes an aspect that should be considered by all spheres to guarantee their ability to function today. For this reason, investigation of the questions mentioned above helps to acquire the needed information and offer some improvements that can help airlines to survive and avoid accidents caused by the increased effectiveness of the staff.
The theoretical basis for the discussion is formed by the improved understanding of the major challenges the aviation industry faces nowadays. First, it is necessary to understand the financial and operational impacts of the pandemic to create sufficient plans to restore normal functioning. The scope of the question is evidenced by the fact that no airlines remain untouched by Covid-19, and they suffer losses (ICAO, 2020). Another challenge presupposes the reorganization of the work of airlines to establish a safe environment and avoid the spread of the virus among passengers and new areas (IATA, 2020b).
Finally, resuming operations is another challenge that is often viewed as the most complex one, as it includes several aspects. There is a need to preserve licenses among workers, appropriate aircraft maintenance, and the establishment of new regulations to avoid accidents and ensure that patients are safe. Under these conditions, the current guidelines offered by regulatory agencies are mainly focused on the course of actions demanded to assist companies in preserving their capabilities. Resolution of these challenges is critical for struggling with Covid-19 aftermath and managing its outcomes.
Aircraft Returning to Operational Service
The travel restrictions introduced by agencies such as European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) returning to operational service might be challenging as the aircraft should be checked for its preparedness and readiness for flights to avoid risks.
Thus, GCAA (2020b) states that all organizations working in the industry should have a plan for gradual resumption to operations, and all these plans should be coordinated at State’s level to ensure that returning to service is performed safely, minimizing risks associated with long stay. To accomplish the goal, special working groups should be established to monitor the observation of the basic rules. The aircraft should be given attention as the most valuable resource.
Thus, IATA (2020a) recommends additional and in-depth checks of all critical parts of every plane to ensure that it is ready for operations. It also includes an investigation of the general condition of the cabin, equipment, and other systems to ensure their stable work (IATA, 2020c). Otherwise, critical problems leading to accidents can be missed.
The guidelines also outline the most frequent issues linked to the long stay. These include bird nests found, problems with flight control unit lights and NAV lights, failure of the hydraulic system, rejected takeoff, disconnection of auto pilot, outdated emergency reference cards for pilots, and speed control (IATA, 2020c). These factors can precondition failures when returning to operations, for this reason, GCAA (2020b), IATA (2020c), and EASA (2020) insist on devoting resources and attention to checking aircraft condition by specially organized work groups responsible for the resuming or increasing operations.
Observation of these guidelines is expected to reduce the risk of unacceptable state of a plane and guarantee a safe environment for all passengers who want to use airline services. Additionally, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the work groups should be responsible for sanitary measures to minimize the chance of being infected (GCAA, 2020b). All these measures are fundamental for returning to flying operations considering the long period of stay and restrictions.
Moreover, there are specific recommendations of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) designed for such situations. For instance, Boeing, as one of the corporations providing aircraft to multiple companies over the globe, including the UAE Emirates, states that all airplane systems should be operationally tested in accordance with the instructions provided by the company as it will help to ensure the airworthiness of the plane returned to operations after a prolonged period of stay (Boeing, no date).
Additionally, following the Airworthiness directive, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (2020) insists on introducing design changes to checking aircraft before it returns to service, such as evaluating all systems and the most frequent problems mentioned above. GCAA (2020b) accepts the importance of the given alterations and insists on observing OEM’s recommendations to minimize the risk of accident and increase operations safely. In such a way, the restrictions on flights introduced because of the pandemic impact the way aircraft is stored and procedures needed to return planes to service safely and effectively.
Crew Effectiveness and Return to Operations
Another challenge peculiar to the aviation industry today is the reduction in the number of operations, meaning the crew might suffer from the lack of experience and gradual deterioration of their skills and competencies needed to ensure a high safety level for both passengers and personnel. The scope of the problem is evidenced by the fact that numerous agencies, including GCAA (2020b) and The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) (2020), introduces specific documents, such as Covid-19 Guidance for Crews, outlining the main problems specialists might face and emphasizing the need for following the recommendations to avoid being infected and preserve the high level of skills and knowledge.
Moreover, IATA (2020b) states that flight and validity operations are disturbed nowadays, which introduces additional complexity to comply with national regulatory requirements linked to flight crew licenses.
Under these conditions, some alternative solutions for traditional licensing are approved to resolve the problem. The central purpose of such alternatives is to maintain operations and high preparedness levels among staff and crew when the training capacity is limited (GCAA, 2020b; IATA, 2020b). The accomplishment of this goal is vital for the further functioning of the airline industry.
The acknowledgment of the critical importance of crew licensing for organizations preconditions the establishment of some programs and guidelines to preserve high effectiveness. Thus, airlines should evaluate the level of experience and competence of their pilots prior to applying to individuals the license or validity extensions (IATA, 2020b).
It also means that airlines become are responsible for establishing and maintaining ground and flight training courses that are approved by the state and its government and help to support the crew’s preparedness and readiness to perform all assigned duties (EASA, 2020). The given programs should consist of both types of training such as flight and ground ones; include flight crew cooperation training in all accidents or unexpected situations; offer training in knowledge and skills needed to perform all flight procedures and ensure their high effectiveness; guarantee that members of the crew correctly realize their functions and responsibilities; be organized on a regular basis to avoid gaps in knowledge (EASA, 2020; IATA, 2020b).
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The critical importance of such courses comes from their ability to support pilots during a long stay and ensure their proper work when the operations are renewed.
The pilots’ preparedness, technique, and the ability to perform emergency procedures should be checked after these courses to guarantee that he/she possesses the competence sufficient to manage various types of aircraft in different conditions (IATA, 2020a). Airlines become responsible for these checks that should be done twice within a year using flight simulation devices or specific criteria for licensing pilots (IATA, 2020b).
The given chances to licensing and training are preconditioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and the limits introduced to avoid the further spread of the infection. However, the necessity to preserve the functioning of airlines as the strategically important tool and vital component of economies fosters change to existing rules with the primary goal to avoid critical damage done to the sphere and create the basis for the successful renewal of operations in the short term.
Under these conditions, multiple states, including the UAE, accept the recommendations offered by regulatory agencies and introduce changes needed to license crew members and avoid accidents caused by their low effectiveness or poor knowledge (GCAA, 2020b). These alterations also impact the operational environment and the way airlines function.
Gaps in Current Regulations
In such a way, the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on flights introduced some challenges for the aviation industry and increased the importance of preserving high airworthiness and staff competence. The agencies’ regulations are accepted worldwide as a way to resolve the crisis and avoid new problems.
In the UAE, airlines such as Emirates and Air Arabia also alter their functioning and adapt to the new conditions. Both operators introduce their own plans created by work groups and outline the way how to return to safe functioning. These planned operations and flee re-activation plan presuppose maintenance checks of engines and components, software, analysis of logistics management, repair management, calibration, and tools upkeep (Lenin, 2020).
The current guidelines also presuppose the crew’s examination with the prior goals to determine their preparedness levels and assess their readiness to flight (Zaal, 2020). This action plan is preconditioned by the existing guidelines and recommendations offered by agencies such as GCAA, IATA, and ICAO.
However, along with the benefits of the given actions, there is a gap in current regulations and policies. First of all, there is a need for immediate policy designs to reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on the airline industry in the region (Maneenop and Kotcharin, 2020).
It means that the state should play a more active role in supporting operations in their attempts to recover from the restrictions and return to their normal functioning. At the same time, the given changes might have increased effectiveness if potent and strong evaluation tools are introduced and coordinated with the government (GCAA, 2020b).
Otherwise, crew licensing and training practices will be ineffective, and the problem of reduced airworthiness will become more topical. Thus, the Middle Eastern region demonstrates weaker responses to the pandemic, meaning that the outcomes of some strategies can be doubted (Maneenop and Kotcharin, 2020). For this reason, it is vital to continue working on the issue to guarantee the effective recovery of the industry.
Existing Aviation Ecosystem, Changes, and Improvements
The existing aviation ecosystem also experienced significant changes because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to adapt to new conditions. First of all, the airlines globally and in the UAE introduced multiple security measures to stop the virus’s spread. These include fumigation and disinfection, plexiglass at check-in areas, vehicle disinfection, social distancing, area marking, and queue management (Zaal, 2020).
Additionally, specialists and crew members have to follow new guidelines to avoid being infected and preserve their working capabilities. Moreover, the operations with aircraft are also altered as additional investigations and checks are needed to return them back to service and ensure that they will function appropriately with no accidents caused by the long period of stay (Zaal, 2020). All these alterations contribute to the formation of a new aviation ecosystem that is vital for the future stable functioning of the industry.
The approach to licensing is also altered. In the UAE, no person is allowed to operate an aircraft until he/she has a UAE license providing him/her with an opportunity to perform the main duties (GCAA, 2020b). For this reason, all pilots, engineers, and other crew members are obliged to be examined to avoid mistakes that can be caused by the deterioration in their skills and knowledge during the stay period or because of restrictions on flights.
The new approach presupposes using online services and training via simulators and courses designed in accordance with agencies’ recommendations as the way to preserve the crew’s high effectiveness knowledge (GCAA, 2020a). The applications should fill in special forms and sent them online to pass the exam showing their overall preparedness for future operations. The critical importance of such measures is justified by the need to avoid errors caused by the human factor to safely renew operations.
Evaluation and Recommendation
Altogether, the current regulations offered by multiple agencies such as GCAA, IATA, ICAO, FAA are focused on mitigation of the harm done by the coronavirus and assisting operations in returning to service safely (IATA, 2020a, ICAO, 2020). The fundamental challenges are the need to stop spreading Covid-19 and relaunch the services vital for the generation of benefits and the further development of the industry.
The effectiveness of guidelines rests on the idea that the aircraft in storage experiences the impact of various external factors, and their consideration when investigating the plane is vital for safety and avoidance of accidents. A similar idea is applied to crew management and licensing. It is critical to ensure that specialists possess the needed skills to avoid the deterioration of the situation.
At the same time, all these measures are introduced to minimize the risk of accidents that might be caused by the restrictions and the lack of experience or gradual deterioration of skills because of the pandemic. The new checks of aircraft and new demands to licensing are vital for guaranteeing that the passengers will enjoy the high standards of safety and will reach destination points with no accidents.
The UAE aviation industry accepts the recommendations and alters its functioning and approaches to working with staff and aircraft to be safe and effective. The scope of these changes demands additional financing, which means that costs should be distributed effectively. It is expected that the given practices will require significant financing; however, they are critical for restoring operations and returning to pre-pandemic showings.
Altogether, the aviation industry faces unprecedented challenges linked to the spread of the coronavirus. That is why new regulatory measures offered by agencies are vital for supporting operations and guaranteeing their ability to restore their functioning. The aircraft and crew should be managed in new ways presupposing additional checks and licensing to avoid problems with equipment or inability to operate a plane effectively.
The additional checks and exams for crews can help to avoid issues with increasing the number of operations and flights because of the overall satisfactory level of the industry. Observing these regulations and OEM’s recommendations, airlines are capable of guaranteeing safety to passengers and avoiding accidents in the future, which is one of the main demands of the whole sphere today. The collaborative effort of all nations and agencies is a key to resolving the crisis caused by Covid-19.
Boeing (no date) Airplane return to service after extended downtime. Web.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) (2020) Return to service of aircraft after storage: Guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Web.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (2020) FAA updates on Boeing 737 MAX. Web.
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) (2020a) Licensing. Web.
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) (2020b) Safety decision 2020-17. Web.
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) (2020b) Guidance for managing pilot training and licensing during COVID-19 operations. Web.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) (2020c) Safety issue review bulletin. Web.
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Zaal, J. (2020) Safely managing aviation resumption. Web.