On March 16, 2020, the White House declared a national emergency, retroactive to March 1, 2020.  The resultant “shutdown” of our county has impacted every phase of life in America, with the aviation industry among the hardest hit.

It is not just private industry that is affected.  Both the FAA and the NTSB are also under “stay at home” orders. What this means, at least relative to the NTSB, is that accidents which have occurred during this period of shutdown have generally not involved a field investigation.  Rather, the NTSB has been securing any wreckage and initiating a remote or ‘desk” type investigation, pending their ability to conduct a field investigation, including examination of the wreckage.

The simple fact is that the emergency response plan of every member of the aviation industry, including all air carriers, are premised upon their ability to respond to the aviation emergency.  They are not designed to work during the overlay of a pandemic and the accompanying national emergency, travel restrictions, “stay at home” orders, etc.

While the industry has been hard hit, aircraft are still flying.  Under these extraordinary circumstances, its time for every air carrier to pull out their emergency response and family assistance plans and figure out how they would response to an aviation accident/incident in today’s world.

Things to review and consider include:

  • “GO Team
    • How will it operate?
    • Are all your plans, logistical and otherwise, still going to be able to get the “Go Team” to the scene?
    • Is the NTSB going to send a “Go Team?”
    • If so, what will it look like?
    • What should your “Go Team look like?”
    • Do you have enough PPE for everyone who has to respond?
  • Corporate Command Center
    • Can it function remotely?
    • Who should be “in the room? 
  • Family Assistance Team
    • How is the NTSB office of Transportation Disaster Assistance goes to respond?
    • What does the TDA expect of you?
    • How are injured passengers going to be handled?
    • Are families going to be brought to the scene?
    • Will you need PPE for them?
  • Insurance Company/Broker
    • Have you spoken with your insurance company regarding responding to an aviation emergency during the crisis?
    • Have you spoken with your broker about these issues?

These questions are by no means all-inclusive, but are meant to get you thinking about the pandemic related complications surrounding what is, even during “normal” times, the unthinkable, i.e. an aviation emergency.

All air carriers should, during this period of crisis, strongly consider having an “emergency response drill” in order to work thru how all of the various moving parts of emergency response will work with “stay at home” orders, limited travel options, and “remote working” being the order of the day. While some/most/all of the participants may be “in the room” remotely or otherwise, it is clear that air carriers need to understand the issues and the“workarounds.”

It is ironic that the current crisis, which affects everyone, provides to the air carrier industry an opportunity to take its emergency response capability to a new level of preparedness.