NIEL RITCHIE: General aviation is essential now more than ever to our nation’s rural communities

While COVID-19 is having a deep impact on some of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco, pockets of the virus have already overwhelmed rural communities as well.

Over a thousand rural communities have already been affected by this crisis, and this is exacerbated by the fact that over 11 million Americans live in a county that does not have a hospital, and an additional 18 million live in a county with a hospital, but no intensive care unit. Many of these counties have higher numbers of senior citizens than the national average, and nearly half of the rural hospitals in the U.S. are unprofitable.

Rural communities are often at a disadvantage, and transportation and access is often limited. This has profound implications for these communities, particularly now. To give a sense, there are more than 5,000 public-use airports in towns across the country, yet the majority of airline traffic goes through 30 of them. Even before COVID-19, general aviation and smaller airports were often the only access for these communities, and now the impact is even greater. For example, RavnAir Group, a rural carrier in Alaska, has ended service and is filing for bankruptcy. 82 percent of communities in Alaska are not connected to the road system and rely solely on aviation and marine transportation to connect with the outside world.

In these and many other cases, general aviation is the only resource for connecting small businesses and rural communities and businesses to the tools and services they need. They make it possible for doctors to visit patients in rural areas, help communities to access emergency care, fight fires, conduct search and rescue, and bring in supplies in times of natural disaster. And, this industry supports critical jobs for our communities, supporting $247 billion per year and over 1.1 million American jobs.

During this current pandemic, general aviation has helped to transport vitally needed supplies, such as facemasks, ventilators and test kits, as well as medical staff. In Colorado, Angel Flight West has teamed up with the Colorado Hospital Association to deliver personal protection equipment and medical supplies directly to the rural hospitals that need them. Angel Flight Soars is helping expedite COVID-19 testing by delivering patient samples from rural communities in Mississippi, Georgia, and North Carolina to labs in Nashville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C.

The benefit of general aviation in small communities and rural industries is perhaps most clearly illustrated in agriculture and food production. The food and agriculture industries in the United States directly employ more than 22.7 million people, with a combined payroll of $729 billion. In order to continue this production to feed America, particularly with the vast challenges currently facing the agricultural sector, general aviation and our network of smaller, local airports and airstrips are more important than ever.

For example, one way that general aviation and these airports support agriculture is through aerial application, or crop dusting. Aircraft are used to disperse seeds or apply fertilizer or crop protection products. For many of the staple crops of the United States, including corn, wheat, soybeans and potatoes, aerial application raises productivity by as much as 25 to 30 percent.

In addition, for example, last season in Nebraska after record flooding, fertilizer was applied by air to corn fields. Rice, which is grown in standing water, relies almost exclusively on aircraft to deliver fertilizer and crop protection products to fight pest or fungal infestation. And, poultry producers use these aircraft to manage operations across dozens of hatcheries, feed mills, and processing plants across the South, spanning from Texas to North Carolina. The examples go on and on.

Yet these smaller airports and aircraft operators are taking a huge hit right now. Overall, general aviation flights in the first week of April were down a full 73 percent when compared to the same period in 2019.

Members of Congress have shown great leadership by supporting funding for airports and suspending fuel taxes for commercial general aviation operators, but we will need to make sure this relief is extended to these smaller operators as well and that we continue to support this infrastructure.

General aviation and our network of local airports are often overlooked as a vital part of our infrastructure, but they will be key for mobility, supply and food distribution and agriculture as our economy and rural communities in particular look to get back on their feet.

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Ross Aviation Now Offers Aircraft Cabin Disinfecting Services

In addition to significantly ramping-up infectious-disease safety precautions and protective guidelines at each of its locations, Ross Aviation is now offering aircraft cabin disinfecting services to help combat the Coronavirus.

The company is providing these services as part of its mission to anticipate and deliver on customers’ needs and to support its team members during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re pleased to not only be able to offer these capabilities for the well-being of our customers, but also to help keep our team members, who are essential front-line workers, healthy and productive during the downturn in flight activity” said Brian Corbett, chief executive officer of Ross Aviation. “Times like these are when you direct your focus to the well-being of passengers, pilots and team members – and keep your company’s mission and core values at the forefront” he continued.

A typical business aircraft requires roughly one to two hours to disinfect, depending on aircraft size, and the airplane can be returned to service immediately afterwards. The components used in the process are approved by aircraft manufacturers – and a typical treatment remains effective from seven to thirty days depending on the wear of the areas. In addition, these services can also be applied to airport offices, automobiles, and other interior spaces, if requested.

Ross Aviation has retained David Allen Certified to advise and train its team members on disinfecting services at Ross locations, beginning with company facilities in Scottsdale, Arizona (KSDL) and Sarasota, Florida (KSRQ). The company’s proprietary process follows NBAA Guidelines for disinfection and uses EPA- registered and aviation-approved products to disinfect airplanes and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. In addition to making sanitizing and protectant services available at Ross Aviation locations, David Allen Certified has AOG Rapid Response teams available to arrive within eight to twenty-four hours to clean and disinfect aircraft on demand. These services can be scheduled directly through Ross Aviation’s Sarasota and Scottsdale locations, or on rossaviation.com – where updates regarding the increasing availability of disinfecting services at additional of Ross Aviation locations can also be found.

Ross Aviation is now offering aircraft cabin disinfecting services to help combat the Coronavirus.

FBO Chain Donates and Delivers Masks to Hospital

While the New York City region remains one of the areas in the U.S. most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment there continues to be in short supply. Million Air, which opened its flagship FBO at Westchester County Airport (HPN) last year, decided to give back by donating 8,000 surgical respiratory face masks and 1,100 N95 protective face masks. It coordinated with the Westchester Business Council and dispatched a Houston-based Cessna Citation S/II from its charter fleet to ferry the masks to its HPN location. From there, they were sent to nearby White Plains Hospital. “These are times that define a generation, and we cannot sit on the sidelines,” said company CEO Roger Woolsey. Read more.

ACAM Begins Training for IS-BAH Registration

Asian Corporate Aviation Management (ACAM), specializing in aircraft management, CAMO, charters, trip support and ground handling across the Asia-Pacific Region, is strategically based at Seletar Airport, Singapore. ACAM is aiming to achieve the IS-BAH standard as a follow on to their success with IS-BAO Stage 1. The company has recently completed NATA Safety 1st Aircraft Marshalling online training modules at the NATA Safety 1st Training Center for its ground support team. Joshua Maniar, flight operation supervisor, explained, “The Safety 1st online training modules covered all we needed and more, to create total awareness and understanding of every role we engage in on the ramp. Safety does not happen by itself, you need to create a safe culture through training.” Read more.

NetJets Expands Employee COVID-19 Testing

NetJets has partnered with North Carolina-headquartered Cellex to make antibody testing available to its employees in the coming weeks. The program augments the fractional ownership provider’s joint initiative with its pilots’ union, NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots, to offer COVID-19 testing for free to its employees through Quest Diagnostics. The moves come as NetJets prepares for economies to begin reopening, said NetJets president of sales, marketing, and service. “We are committed to testing 100 percent of our crewmembers initially and offering ongoing testing to anyone who travels to high-risk locations, has been exposed to COVID-19, or becomes symptomatic.” Read more.

Air BP Offers Support During COVID-19 Crisis

Air BP has helped the customers and communities that are dealing with COVID-19 around the globe. In the U.S., the fuel provider donated three million gallons of jet-A to customers FedEx and Alaska Airlines to assist in the delivery of medical supplies and other essential goods to areas at the greatest risk for the virus. “We are pleased to be able to play our part in supporting our communities during these difficult times,” said CEO Jon Platt. “Our commitment to safe, reliable fueling operations remains unwavering and we’re grateful for the hard work of our front-line Air BP operators who continue to enable us to meet the needs of our customers.” Read more.

Clay Lacy Adds Aircraft Disinfection to Services

Clay Lacy Aviation, based in Van Nuys, CA, has introduced aircraft cleaning and disinfection services as part of its offerings. Performed at the company’s maintenance centers and by its mobile response teams, its detailing technicians wear full-body Tyvek protective suits, goggles, gloves, and face masks, and use bipolar ionization equipment and EPA-registered sanitizing products to disinfect the aircraft cabin. The ionization process takes an hour, releasing millions of charged ion particles that kill airborne and surface pathogens such as COVID-19 and influenza viruses along with Staph, other dangerous bacteria, and mold. Read more.

FBO Chain Donates and Delivers PPE to NY Hospital

While the New York City region remains one of the areas in the U.S. most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment there continues to be in short supply, causing legislators to reach out for assistance. Million Air, which opened its flagship FBO at Westchester County Airport (HPN) last year, answered the call, donating 8,000 surgical respiratory face masks and 1,100 N95 protective face masks. It coordinated with the Westchester Business Council and dispatched a Houston-based Cessna Citation S/II from its charter fleet to ferry the masks to its HPN location. From there, they were sent to a nearby medical facility. “These are times that define a generation, and we cannot sit on the sidelines,” said company CEO Roger Woolsey. Emergency medical missions are nothing new to the Million Air charter fleet, which on average flies 10 time-critical organ-transplant missions a day and has tallied more than 30,000 since the company was founded. Read more.

Aeroplex/Aerolease Group Launches Facility Disinfecting Services

The Aeroplex/Aerolease Group is now offering hangar and facility disinfecting services to help combat the Coronavirus, in addition to ramping up infectious disease safety and protective guidelines at each of its own locations. A typical aviation facility disinfecting process depends on the size of the building. However, such services can be adapted around the needs of the specific operation, and the facilities can typically be returned within 30 minutes after disinfecting is completed. The components used in the process are approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – and a typical treatment remains effective from seven to 14 days depending on the use of the areas. Disinfection services can be applied in office, lobbies, shop areas, hangars, equipment, and other interior spaces. Read more.