COVID-19 Pandemic affects pilots performance, but effects are decreasing as more people travel again

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 8:25 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Pilots across the country blamed fewer flight hours during the COVID-19 pandemic for mistakes made in the cockpit, according to federal reports reviewed by the KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team.

The Federal Aviation Agency, which is the federal agency that oversees air traffic in the United States, said it’s issued new safety guidelines. As the Transportation Security Administration anticipates travel will get close to pre-pandemic levels this Thanksgiving. The TSA expects to screen 20 million passengers during a 10-day period starting Friday.

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team searched the ASRS Database for the terms “lack of flying” and “Covid-19″. The database, which is a voluntary and confidential reporting service, allows pilots, controllers, mechanics, flight attendants and dispatchers to report safety information.

In one report, i9 found a pilot canceled his take-off at the last minute after mishearing a clearance from traffic control. According to the report, the pilot said the biggest risk was he had zero hours of flight time over the last year because of the pandemic.

"First the biggest threat to the flight was that I hadn't flown in a little over a year, zero...
"First the biggest threat to the flight was that I hadn't flown in a little over a year, zero hours."(None)

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found hundreds of similar reports where pilots and control tower operators made mistakes and blamed those mistakes on COVID-19.

Donnell Evans, who is a spokesperson for the FAA, said these reports are designed for the FAA to identify problematic trends and create solutions. He said the FAA created a list of safety suggestions for pilots to monitor the effects of COVID-19.

“Early on, the FAA worked closely with the U.S. Commercial Aviation Safety Team to develop and distribute an extensive list of safety elements that operators should monitor due to dynamic changes resulting from the pandemic,” Evans said.

Some specific techniques on the F-A-A’s safety list include watching for fatigue and making sure equipment is properly stored.

Hassan Shahidi, who is the president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, said this is an example of this process working perfectly. He also said the frequency of reports citing the lack of flying or COVID-19 for mistakes has steadily dropped as more people fly again.

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