January 20, 2021

COVID-19 in Ontario, a General Aviation perspective


The Following Article is Written by Phil Lightstone

On January 12, 20201, Premier Doug Ford announced a state of emergency in Ontario relating to COVID19, issuing a Stay at Home Order (SaHO). Effective on Thursday, January 14, 2021, all Ontario residents are asked to stay at home with the exception of essential services. The Premier’s goal is to limit person to person contact, reducing the spread of the COVID19 virus. The stay at home order is not a curfew.

From a General Aviation (GA) perspective, some flight training units have put their operations on hold, curtailing flight instruction. GA pilots engaged in essential service flights, like transporting medical supplies, Hope Air flights and others, are able to fly without violating the order. Using common sense, a flight for that $100 hamburger would violate the order. The Ontario government’s stay at home order, has a number of exceptions, but in essence, we are advised to stay at home, with the exception of shopping for essential products like food, medical supplies, etc. In Ontario, Typical winter weather in January and February, tends to be IFR with icing in the lower flight levels, which limits the amount of flyable days for the average GA pilot.

From a GA perspective, we may choose to fly our aircraft for maintenance requirements, like moving the aircraft to a maintenance shop for its annual inspection, post maintenance flight, etc. From a VFR and IFR currency requirement, this becomes a bit of a grey area, where your common sense comes into play. Clearly this is a complex situation, where the outcome of a pilot’s flight activities (e.g. an off airport landing) could require EMS front line staff to be diverted from other emergencies.

Christine Gervais, COPA President and CEO, reports “we need to do everything we can to follow and support provincial health guidelines. Professional flight training, training flights towards a license or rating, and flights that are for the purpose of maintaining pilot/aircraft proficiency can continue. However, leisure flights should not be conducted in any province where the provincial government has issued stay-at-home restrictions.”

Clark Morawetz, COPA director and flight instructor reports “from a pilot proficiency perspective, we need to be careful regarding the impact to aviation safety as we come out of COVID19. Access to qualified instructors will be critical to the COVID19 transition.”

Contact your flight school or freelance flight instructor to determine if they are continuing training during SaHO. If you plan not to fly your aircraft during the upcoming months, you might consider “pickling” your engine to limit corrosion caused by inactivity. Many pilot/owners and AMEs would not recommend running the aircraft’s engine on the ground during long periods of flight in activity. Typically, this would not bring the engine to a temperature which would boil water vapour out of the oil, and might accelerate the corrosion process. Check with your maintenance shop for guidance.

Penalties for those who are found to be in contravention of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act or the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, could face fines of up to $100,000 and one year in prison. In the case of an individual who is a director or officer of a corporation, the maximum fine is $500,000 and one year in prison. The corporation itself could face fines of up to $10,000,000. See the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O 1990, c. E. 9 (www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e09#BK22) and the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O 2020, c. 17 (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/20r17) for more details.

More information can be found at www.Ontario.ca/COVID-19. As always, stay safe during our new normal. Don’t forget to check out the PlaneTalk podcasts on Apple, Google, Spotify and at www.PlaneTalk.ca.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)