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New research highlights the damaging effect of COVID-19 mitigations on UK pilots and the aviation industry 

A study carried out by Dr Simon Bennett, Director of Leicester University’s Civil Safety and Security Unit, with the assistance of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, has highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on UK pilots. The research, based on a survey and in-depth interviews with pilots, looked at how being furloughed affected flight crew competencies, including retention of learned routines, faith in officialdom, faith in employers, and pilots’ general outlook.

The study found that many felt their performance on return to work post-furlough was not satisfactory, and that morale across the industry had been impacted by inadequate Government and employer actions.

BALPA supports the report’s recommendation that “politicians, regulators, airline boards and other actors reflect on their actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, canvass the opinions of front-line staff and work to restore, at the very least, the status quo ante.”

Some statistics from the research:

  • More than 57% of those questioned rated the Government’s performance in safeguarding the interests of commercial aviation in the crisis ‘inadequate’.
  • Fourteen respondents (out of 223) scored their first duty (flight-deck or simulator) after returning to work in the range 1 – 4, 1 being ‘unsatisfactory’ (and 10 being ‘satisfactory’).

BALPA head of flight safety, Joji Waites said:

“This research is really useful in helping us understand the effect furlough has had on pilots. It is clear that periods of inactivity and being away from the flight deck have a detrimental effect on pilot performance and we need stakeholders across the industry to really understand this and ensure that flight safety is always a number one priority.

“It is also clear that the handling of COVID-19 by the government and employers has impacted morale amongst the flying workforce. This needs to be addressed and BALPA will continue to work with the government and airlines as the voice of pilots.”