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Navigating Uncertain Times: Best Practices for Pilot Better Health

While the world continues to muster through the recent pandemic, many pilots are still flying their routes, transporting people from point A to B, and even sticking to their pilot training program. With word of a potential second wave, however, we’d like to take a moment to remember a few Better health-friendly best practices that you can employ as a pilot to protect the safety of you, your crew and passengers against COVID-19. Let’s take a look.

Wear a Mask

Political leanings aside, masks have been shown to reduce the spread of viruses – which fights many sicknesses, not just coronavirus. In many locations, masks are actually required, such as in the hangar or airport terminals, so remember to keep one handy. Wearing it snug around your nose and mouth during the flight and when interacting with passengers on the plane can help fight the spread of COVID-19. There are several types of masks you can use, some more effective at stopping the virus than others. However, keep in mind that according to the CDC, “The use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide the adequate level of protection and other equally relevant measures should be adopted. If masks are to be used, this measure must be combined with hand hygiene and other infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to prevent the human-to-human transmission.” In other words, make sure you’re washing your hands and following the other tips on this list.

Keep Your Distance

Although it’s tough to maintain six feet from co-pilot or crew in the air, make sure to avoid close contact while on the ground and consider staying in the cockpit when transporting passengers. The recommended distance to stay away from others is six feet or two meters, both indoors and outdoors. An easy way to remember this distance is to use two-arm’s length between you and another person. It’s been shown that COVID-19 spreads when an infected person expels droplets from their  mouth or nose and that is then inhaled by another person. The closer you are to others, the more likely you are to be in the “danger zone” of inhaling the virus.

Add to Your Flight Bag

In addition to your essentials, flashlight, flight logs, checklists, etcetera, add a small bottle of hand sanitizer and some disinfectant wipes to your flight bag. Although not as effective as regular water and soap, using hand sanitizer has been shown as a good alternative in reducing the spread of germs upon contact. Additionally, disinfectant wipes can be used to wipe down common cockpit components like the control yoke, avionics switches and even the door handles. This is particularly helpful for those who are renting airplanes and are worried about lingering germs from previous pilots or passengers.

Get Tested Before and After Your Flight

When flying with others, it may be a good idea to get tested before you take off to ensure you’re not at risk of spreading the virus. And, if your trip requires many stops, or interacting with passengers, a test at the end of your trip will give you peace of mind knowing you’re in the clear. At the very least, take a self assessment to understand whether you’re experiencing relevant symptoms that may warrant further medical care. 

Know When to Quarantine

Some areas of the country are higher risk than others, and if you’re interacting with strangers throughout your trip, like at a busy general aviation airport for example, you may want to consider quarantining when you arrive at your destination. This can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And, be aware that as a pilot, public health officers and contact tracers may need to communicate with you and/or the travelers that are on your airplane, in the event they’ve been exposed to a sick person.

Keep Your Physical Exercise Up

While it won’t stop you from getting the virus, regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind, helping reduce weight, lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease and other conditions, all which increase susceptibility to COVID-19. To take it even further, a recent study from the University of Virginia found a lot of evidence to show that regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of death in patients with the COVID-19 virus. Plus, things like jogging, biking and swimming benefit your mental well-being when you’re trying to avoid an overly active social life. When you’re not busy jetting about, try to get at least 30 minutes to an hour of moderate-to-heavy exercise per day.