General Aviation

Published on June 8th, 2020 | by Mark Dwyer

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Returning to Flying after Covid-19

The Irish Aviation Authority have updated their advice to General Aviation pilots returning to flying after Covid-19. They have just published a very informative notice with lots of very useful tips, advice and links to other resources (see below). The notice focuses on four key areas; Flight Planning, Pilot Licensing & Currency, the Aircraft and Airfields. Most pilots will not have flown for at least three months, and many will not have flown this year. Take some time to prepare yourself before you go flying.

As the Irish government reopens the country and as restrictions on the movement of people are gradually lifted, the IAA would like to take this opportunity to remind General Aviation pilots returning to flying after a period of inactivity about the following important safety imperatives: 

Flight Planning: 

If you haven’t been flying for a while, make sure to brush up on your flight planning skills. Remember a good flight plan will always result in a better, safer flight. Always take time to consider all the factors that may impact your planned flight. Don’t rely on memory only. Use your aircraft operating manuals, checklists and published aeronautical information relevant to your planned flight. Among other things:

  • Remember to calculate the fuel required, the weight and balance and aircraft performance for your planned flight.
  • Consider filing a flight plan, even if you are not planning to fly in controlled airspace. 
    – This may give you access to a ‘flight information service’ (FIS), including meteorological information and information on aerodromes, possible hazards to flight and changes in the serviceability of navigation aids.
    – Remember, if your flight is planned across an international boundary you must file a flight plan. 
  •  In all cases, remember to check all relevant NOTAMs as part of your planning. If an international flight is planned either into or out of Ireland, you will need to : 
    – Check the Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP) for your place of departure and the territories of any other State you intend to transit or land at. 
    – Remember that there may be additional restrictions outside of the aeronautical framework e.g. immigration, health requirements etc. 
    – You will need to source and check relevant government and local COVID-19 requirements for you and your passengers at all points of departure and arrival.

Pilot Licence & Flight Currency:

  • Check that your pilot licence, ratings and certificates are still valid. This includes a valid medical certificate as appropriate to the type of licence.   
  • Remember, you must have completed at least 3 take-offs, approaches and landings in the previous 90 days in an aircraft of the same type or class before you are legally allowed to carry any passengers. 
  • Even if all your documents are valid, you might feel that your flying skills may be a bit rusty. Consider getting some refresher training with a suitable instructor as soon as possible.
  • If you decide that you’re ok to fly, pick a good-weather day and avoid any limiting flight conditions.

Aircraft

Check your aircraft before you fly:

  • Activating an aircraft after a period of inactivity or storage may require specific maintenance checks to be performed. For some light aircraft these may be within the scope of a pilot owner. However, other aircraft may require maintenance to be performed by a maintenance organisation or licensed engineer.
  • Review and check that all your aircraft documents are present and that they are valid. 
  • Confirm that there is no overdue maintenance. An aircraft should not be operated with overdue maintenance, an expired Airworthiness Review Certificate (ARC) or an expired Flight Permit. 
  • Always carry out a thorough pre-flight inspection in accordance with the AFM or POH, this should include all safety equipment. If in doubt about the serviceability of your aircraft or equipment, consult with your CA(M)O, maintenance organisation or licensed engineer.  
  • Check that fuel stored in aircraft tank(s) is fit for operation. Fuel stored in bowsers/drums should also be checked for contamination and water content. Remember that fuel, particularly MOGAS, when left unattended for a prolonged period can separate and deteriorate.  
  • If you have any doubts about the serviceability of your aircraft, you should consult with your CA(M)O, Maintenance Organisation, or a licensed engineer before flight. 
  • The IAA provides the following safety leaflets which may be of assistance to you or your operations:
    – Aircraft and Components with Low Utilisation
    – Use of Unleaded Petrol (MOGAS) in Certain Light Aircraft
    – Safety Leaflets (See IAG 9 Using Unleaded Petrol (Mogas) in Aircraft)

Airfields:

  • As a general aviation pilot, you may be using a small private airfield, farm strip or landing site. Even though you may be very familiar with the airfield, you should be vigilant for changes that may have happened during periods of inactivity. These may include:
    – The operating surfaces, e.g. grass length, wildlife encroachment including rabbit holes and bird nests etc, and the possibility of hidden or new ground obstacles etc.
    – The airfield environment, including growing trees/hedges, new powerlines, wind-power turbines, adjacent construction equipment including cranes etc.
    – Be aware of the runway surface state, e.g. wet or longer than usual grass, recent rain or standing water can affect aircraft take-off and landing performance.
    – The continued availability of airfield equipment, e.g. wind direction indicators, firefighting equipment, flight planning facilities etc.  
  • Pilots operating from licenced airfields should check with the airfield operator for any changes in the airfield operating environment. 
  • In all cases remember that you are required to get prior permission (PPR) from the airfield owner/operator before you fly to or from an airfield or landing site. 

Further Safety Guidance: 

Be Prepared & Stay Safe

Please Note: The advice on this page is provided by the Irish Aviation Authority to help general aviation pilots and aircraft operators prepare to return to normal flight operations subject to the gradual lifting of Irish government health restrictions. To keep up to date with the latest Irish government COVID-19 Health Measures please consult the government’s website here: GOV.IE 

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About the Author

Mark Dwyer

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.



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