Operations both small and large have experienced a lower volume of flights because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as layoffs and furloughs. In this environment, keeping your skills current can be challenging.

To learn what pilots are doing now to get ready for flight after the pandemic, we surveyed our readers anonymously. Specifically, we inquired about their companies’—and their own—investment in training and the effect the virus has had on their employment and proficiency status.

Company-Sponsored Training

Of the 47 respondents, about 60% (28) have remained employed during the crisis and have maintained their required qualifications or desired proficiency; 47% (22) say their companies have provided them with the resources needed to complete individual in-aircraft flight training. Individual classroom training was provided to 26% (12), and 13% (6) reported receiving high-fidelity simulator training through their company.

Personal Investments in Training

A high percentage of pilots responding to the survey reported making a personal investment in keeping their skills sharp. In most categories, the number of pilots who completed training on their own was very close to those reporting receiving company training (see Figure 1). This was true even for high-end simulator training. The number of pilots obtaining classroom training on their own (20) was almost twice that of those who attended this type of training through their company (12).

Loss of Qualifications or Proficiency

Of pilots responding to the survey, 13% (6) reported that they’re still employed but haven’t maintained their qualifications or proficiency. No one reported receiving upgrade or transition training. Another 15% (7) of respondents are furloughed or no longer employed and haven’t maintained their required qualifications or desired proficiency. These figures suggest that there may be a substantial training backlog when the volume of flight operations returns to prepandemic levels.

Effects of COVID

ROTOR also asked respondents to share their thoughts about COVID-19 and how the virus has affected their business or career. Below are some of our readers’ responses.

Everything related to tourism has been greatly affected. We’ve had to review our products in that respect. Although the utility [segment of our] business [has survived], it’s been with reduced hours. I believe the market will change slightly, but any utility projects on the table prior to the pandemic will eventually be done. I’m optimistic the helicopter industry will resume to a new normal.

So far, I’ve remained employed; however, the outlook is still bleak, with a definite long-term pay cut or possible job loss looming. Maintaining my health and fitness has helped to alleviate my stress and anxiety levels throughout. I think fatigue was the biggest danger to flight ops prior to COVID; now, stress, anxiety, and general mental health are a major concern to the industry as a whole.

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