March 26, 2020

Advice to GA Pilots Regarding COVID-19


By Phil Lightstone

COVID-19 has been in the public’s attention for the past three months. During the past three weeks, the virus has gained more ground in North America, impacting general aviation, business aviation, air taxis, charters and, of course, the airlines. Key messages from our government leaders focus on “flattening the curve” in an effort to contain the virus.

From a GA perspective, there are a number of proactive and reactive steps which we can take to keep us safe. These are especially applicable if your aircraft sees multiple users.

Medical professionals have identified that the virus can live on surfaces for an extended period of time, from two hours to nine days, depending upon the type of surface and the temperature. What we don’t want is the aircraft environment to become a petri dish incubating the virus.

From Health Canada’s website, the virus is most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • Respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze;
  • Close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

As pilots, we need to be cognizant of the impact of our actions (or non-actions) toward others. The following pre- and post-flight actions should be added to your checklist. Health Canada’s list of recommended disinfecting products can be found here.

Before planning your next flight, contact your avionics manufacturers to determine which cleaning products will not harm the screens, glass and instruments. For example, Garmin recommends using a cleaner with at least 70 percent, but no more than 91 percent, of isopropyl alcohol and advises that cleaners containing ammonia will damage the Garmin display screens. Soap and water can be used to clean the buttons and knobs; however, care should be taken as the avionics are not waterproof.

Also, contact the airframe manufacturer to determine which cleaning products will not harm the panel, switches, circuit breakers, heating controls knobs, compass, seat fabric and leather upholstery.


  • Wipe down the yoke or control stick, engine controls, seat belts and door handles with an alcohol-based wipe, or a suitable hand cleaner/disinfectant which is small and easy to carry;
  • Wipe down the avionics items that might have been touched with the appropriate cleaner;
  • Wipe down other surfaces with cleaning products as recommended by the manufacturer;
  • Wipe down any portable devices and cables that you have brought into the aircraft;
  • Wipe down shared resources like charts, maps and the Canadian Flight Supplement that are left in the aircraft.

Post Flight:

  • Ensure you keep two metres away from flight-line and FBO staff during fueling;
  • When using self-serve fuel facilities, use disposable gloves with gloves appropriate for fuel handling over top. Discard the disposable gloves afterward;
  • For fuel payments, consider using a ‘card on file’ option with your FBO if available;
  • If paying at the aircraft, wear gloves when handling the credit/debit card PIN pad. Use the ‘tap’ option if available. Some payment processors have a $100 tap limit. Wipe down the PIN pad or use disposable gloves before entering your PIN onto the machine. Consider wiping down your card before putting it back into your wallet;
  • After putting away or tying down your aircraft, wipe it down as outlined above;
  • Wipe down any portable devices and cables you may have brought into the aircraft.

These simple steps should add only a few more minutes to your walkaround and post-flight activities.

Image credit: U.S. Centres for Disease Control