We all know that airline passenger travel and overall airline flight operations have declined significantly during the effects of COVID-19. What we don’t know is the overall long term effects on the aviation industry that will be lasting, and potentially, problematic.
I can’t postulate all of the effects, but I do want to tie together a few data points and bring awareness to one potential challenge we are going to need to address if (when) traffic volumes again increase. This is the concerning decrease in the production of ATP certificates that is beginning to show itself.
First, some background.
When the changes to pilot qualifications were made (resultant from the Colgan crash) that required a pilot to have an ATP certificate for any FAR 121 carriage flight operations, and the requirement of the ATP CTP course was implemented to be eligible for an ATP certificate, the game changed. As a result of these changes, the vast majority of ATP certificates in the United States began to be issued at regional airlines due to the costs and complexity of providing this ATP CTP course. In effect, we made our ATP certificate production dependant on airlines needing more ATPs.
That isn’t the case currently. So they aren’t producing them in any quantity at this time.
In a recent Airlines for America “Impact of COVID-19: Data Updates,” two slides really tell the story.
In the first, we see that overall worldwide (and domestic) departures of airline flights has dropped significantly. With this decrease in demand, the need for pilots has similarly decreased. Airlines are adjusting their operations accordingly, and simply, we don’t currently need as many pilots.
Source: Airlines for America – https://www.airlines.org/dataset/impact-of-covid19-data-updates/#
It is far too early to tell a great deal from FAA data available, but with a little help from some data shared with industry members from a couple of FAA offices, we can certainly see that the impact on practical test due to COVID-19 has slowed, and also may be showing recovery from the effects of COVID-19.
One early indicator that has been shared is the tracking of FAA practical test activity as it is delivered by FAA DPEs.
It is a short comparison, but if we look at the overall volume of DPE issued practical tests, and compare some of the same date periods from 2020 to last year, 2019, we see an obvious decrease in the number of tests conducted. Worth note, the data here is somewhat limited and I am providing what I have, so full comparisons may not be available that tell the full year-to-year story. But even with that said, some indications and trends that at least tell part of the story seem to be evident.
The chart above shows an obvious drop in testing volume in 2020 compared to the first part of February moving into March and April as the United States experienced nationwide shutdowns and restrictions. Continue reading
Training CFI applicants? Working to make sure you as a CFI have the most up-to-date information for your teaching efforts?
Then make sure you have the most current version of the FAA’s Aviation Instructor’s Handbook. The biggest changes to this document were the reorganization of some chapters, updating references from “Practical Test Standards” to “Airman Certification Standards”, and the addition of a chapter on “Teaching Practical Risk Management During Flight Instructions.”
This document was recently updated and released on June 2, 2010.
Dateline 6-7-2020 – 1 Year to the Day Charlie had a “Hiccup”.
Happily, after much work, Charlie has returned to her hangar after some successful flight tests, after much work!
A freshly overhauled carburetor (that really seemed to need it by the amount of crap that was found in it and the sticky float), 5 cylinders off and reworked, and multiple attempts at working intake leads that went with all this work and it was time to again try to bring Charlie back home.
A friend picked me up with his Stinson and we headed down to KBEH where we arrived to find that one of our fellow pilots down there (under the guidance of our mechanic) was doing one more test flight before we got there. Charlie was currently level at 10,000 MSL and headed back home!
Escorted home from KBEH to 35D, fellow Stinson owner and friend Bruce managed to capture a picture in the air with Lake Michigan in the background, proving that flight did again happen for Charlie. Even better, with me successfully at the controls again.