Wednesday, 1 July 2020

UK updated Coronavirus COVID-19 guidance General Aviation

The UK has updated its guidance to help the UK's General Aviation (GA) sector prepare to reopen safely for business on 4th July. 

General Aviation flying is allowed where social distancing measures can be observed and from 4 July, the safe return of dual flights and training flights, and the reopening of GA businesses, will be permitted in England. 

Risk assessments
Public Health England recommends keeping a two-metre distance from others. Where this is not possible, you need to:

carry out a coronavirus risk assessment
take the appropriate actions to reduce the risk of transmission
This is likely to be the case for most dual and training flights, for example, and other GA activities including commercial ballooning.

You need to regularly review your risk assessment to ensure it remains relevant and appropriate. The Health and Safety Executive encourages organisations to identify measures in a priority order. Risk assessments should take account of other risks and ensure controls implemented for coronavirus do not increase risks due to other hazards.

The government has published guidance on working safely and how this can be applied in the workplace. You will need to translate this into the specific actions depending on the nature of your business.

Social distancing
You should maintain a 2-metre distance where possible, because the risk of transmission is small at this distance.

If you cannot keep a 2 metre distance, reduce the risk to yourself and others by maintaining a 1 metre distance where possible, and taking suitable precautions:

limit the number of people or households that you come into contact with
wash or sanitise your hands regularly
use a face covering
avoid touching your face
sit / stand side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them
stay outdoors, rather than indoors, where possible
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing
touch as few surfaces as possible
minimise the time spent close to other people, where possible
avoid loud talking, shouting or singing
dispose of waste safely, including items such as used disposable face coverings
Face coverings
If you can, you should wear a face covering:

in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible
where you will meet people you don’t normally meet

Passengers must wear a face covering when on board aircraft in England.

This includes individuals taking part in General Aviation activities where they are not sharing piloting or flight crew duties, for example, flying as a passenger in a balloon, or on an introductory flight, or on a cost-shared basis. Face coverings are recommended to be worn by all individuals on aircraft, where social distancing is not possible, where it is safe to do so.

Some people do not have to wear a face-covering where they are not able to for health, age and equality reasons. This has more details 

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of workplace PPE. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with coronavirus and the more time you spend near them. You are very unlikely to be infected from walking past another person. The risk of infection also increases with the number of contacts you have with people outside your household each day.

Large gatherings
From 4 July, you should limit your social interactions to 2 households in any indoor location, public or private. Your support bubble counts as one household.

Follow social distancing guidance.

If outdoors (for example, in a balloon), you should limit your social interactions to up to 6 people from different households. Follow social distancing guidance.

More information about business events.

Reopening of aerodromes and training organisations in England
The question of whether any organisation should open (or reopen) is a business decision for the individual organisation. Aerodrome operators, training organisations and other GA businesses are best placed to decide whether opening is in their best interest, either from a commercial or health and safety standpoint.

Some organisations will require time to implement coronavirus guidance, which may result in delays to reopening. Steps that organisations should consider taking include:

encouraging visitors to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises
calculating the maximum number of visitors that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines, and limiting the number of appointments at any one time - take into account total floorspace, and any likely pinch points and busy areas
using online or telephone pre-booking systems, for example when booking flying lessons, and when booking an appointment, asking if customers can attend on their own, where possible
encouraging customers to arrive at the time of their scheduled appointment or lesson
informing customers of guidance about visiting the premises prior to, and at the point of arrival, including information on websites, on booking forms and in entrance ways
adjusting how people move through the premises to reduce congestion, and contact between people, for example, queue management or one-way flow
ensuring any changes to entrances, exits and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, included disabled clients
maintaining social distancing in all waiting areas, and communal areas
The operation of retailers on site such as cafes should follow government guidance for the sector. When retailers can open, they should be encouraged where possible to:

limit customer numbers
use self-service options
put a one-way system in place
use contactless payment methods
All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes - but is not limited to - refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission - particularly from aerosol transmission.

Public toilets, portable toilets and toilets inside premises should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Steps that will usually be needed:

using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and to avoid touching your face, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available
consider the use of social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form, and the adoption of a limited entry approach, with one in, one out - whilst avoiding the creation of additional bottlenecks
to enable good hand hygiene consider making hand sanitiser available on entry to toilets where safe and practical, and ensure suitable handwashing facilities including running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying (either paper towels or hand driers) are available
setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage. Use normal cleaning products, paying attention to frequently hand touched surfaces, and consider use of disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.
keep the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open where appropriate
special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets and larger toilet blocks
putting up a visible cleaning schedule can keep it up to date and visible
providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection
Test and trace
The opening up of the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace.

You should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed.

This could help contain clusters or outbreaks. Many businesses that take bookings already have systems for recording their customers and visitors. If you do not already do this, you should do so to help fight the virus.

Where the enforcing authority, such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to ensure social distancing, where possible.

Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law. The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to employers to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements. Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to two years. There is also a wider system of enforcement, which includes specific obligations and conditions for licensed premises.

Employers are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities. The vast majority of employers are responsible and will join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public. However, inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers are taking the necessary steps.

For further advice see the safer transport guidance for aviation operators and guidance on safer workplaces.

Training and flying instructors
Flying instructors and support staff should be formally informed of the risks and all actions being taken to combat the risks. This is to ensure they:

understand the specific risks and mitigations
understand site protocols
are physically and mentally well enough to engage in a return to training
It will be for individual training organisations to agree with their instructors any conditions for their return.

Instructors deemed clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to follow government advice.

In most cases it will not be possible to keep a distance of 2 metres apart inside a training aircraft. Measures to manage the risk of transmission will depend on the type and size of the aircraft.

Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, training schools and instructors should take the most appropriate actions to reduce the risk of transmission.

Social distancing also applies to all parts of a business where students or instructors may congregate outside of the aircraft. Examples of this include reception areas and classrooms. Cleaning is vital in all areas of the training venue and aircraft. Training organisations should write and implement a cleaning plan. This should be updated when new information becomes available.

It should ensure that all areas to be accessed by flying instructors, students and support staff are deep cleaned to a minimum standard. This includes regular cleaning for:

surfaces on board the aircraft
all other areas accessed by students, instructors and support staff.
all frequently touched surfaces, for example, door handles, banister rails, buttons and toilet areas
The government has published guidance on working safely and how this can be applied in the workplace. Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take depending on the nature of the business and how it is operated, managed and organised.

Actions you could take include:

more frequent hand washing and surface cleaning
wearing a face covering, where it is safe to do so
disinfection of the aircraft (i.e. frequent touch points including headsets) and outside facilities to a standard which follows government guidance for cleaning in non-healthcare settings
keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
using screens or barriers (where safe and appropriate to do so) to separate people from each other. These should only be introduced into aircraft under an approved modification
using side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
provision and use of hand sanitiser
reducing and fixing the number of people each person has contact with - for example, training organisations should consider limiting the number of students per instructor (so each person works with only a few others).
ensuring only essential people are present in the aircraft for the purposes of safety and effective learning
Organisations should make customers aware of, and encourage compliance with, limits on gatherings.

GA maintenance check flights
The CAA has published advice on maintenance flights - under the heading ‘GA maintenance check flights’.

Communications for aerodromes
Aerodrome operators and others involved in GA are encouraged to communicate with local communities. This is to ensure that the easing of restrictions on GA activity is understood not just by the GA community, but also by the general public – particularly those living near to airfields. This is to avoid people becoming concerned by the increase in airfield activity. Pilots should also act responsibly, for example by avoiding noise-sensitive and built-up areas.

Both the CAA and stakeholder organisations within the GA community are valuable sources of information about managing the challenges of flying in the current environment, and members of the community are encouraged to consult both for more detailed advice and guidance where applicable.

Air traffic management
Pilots resuming GA activity should be aware that air traffic services are still limited. NATS is trying to reduce non-essential activities, including services to GA. This is to ensure the resilience of the critical air traffic management services, while complying with current guidance by not having more people on site than necessary.

While most GA activity occurs outside of controlled airspace, and therefore does not involve NATS, pilots should therefore be aware of the strain their activity places on other essential services.

Lower airspace radar services are also offered on an ‘as and when possible’ basis which means they can be turned off if necessary. Similarly, access to Class D could also be simply refused by the relevant air navigation service provider if it has to prioritise other airspace users. The CAA have published further information about short term changes to help Air Traffic Control return to service.

Return to business as usual
The general aviation sector is an important contributor to skills, jobs and growth. This government is committed to helping this important STEM sector back on its feet after restrictions are lifted.

The GA team in the Department for Transport is well aware of the structural threat this period poses to GA. We are therefore working closely with the sector to mitigate any long-term negative consequences and support the restart and recovery of the aviation sector and wider economy.

This guidance refers to the social distancing guidelines that only apply in England. There may be information in this guidance that is useful for all individuals and businesses taking part in GA activities to consider, but any GA flying in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales must be carried out in a way that ensures that all rules and physical distancing guidance are complied with in those locations.
For information relating to relevant rules and guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales please consult the website of the relevant devolved administration, which will be updated as required.

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