The following article was written by Sharon Cheung, Director, National Programming, COPA.

Sharon Cheung, Director, National Programming, COPA.

Day in and day out, we put COPA members at the center of everything we do. And in the many months since COVID-19 first began, COPA has been working to make our programs more accessible online – from Facebook Live Q&As to our new COPA Safety Program, which offers digital safety seminars on a monthly basis (at no cost to participants).

As we continue along through the pandemic, it remains clear: a virtual world is the new reality.

We know this to be true as this past February 20, 2021, nearly 600 of you – our valued members – attended our COPA Safety Program online seminar for three straight hours. You’ll notice in the chart below; the numbers of attendees stay stable throughout the duration of the seminar, indicating an engaged audience. We had strong representation from Ontario (44%), from other provinces, from the U.S., and we even had a Canadian pilot join us from Taiwan!

To put this number into perspective, let’s recall the days of booking time off for long drives to in-person seminars. While meaningful half day activities, these events would draw in no more than 20-30 of our peers and would often be inaccessible to those living in more remote areas.

Online seminars enable you to learn at your own pace and time
Today, you can attend our online safety seminars from the comforts of your home, with thousands of other pilots from across the country. After every seminar, we post recordings and FAQ documents in our members-only section to be watched and reviewed at your own pace and time. This supports different adult learning styles as well as accommodates the varying schedules of our members.

While virtual events cannot replicate face-to-face contact, our new COPA Safety Program offers more access to information, including videos and case studies, for those who cannot regularly drive out and make time for in-person seminars once that is possible again. It also proves there is an interest for a new way to approach our programs and in learning about aviation.

Your feedback helps us improve with each new seminar
Since we first launched, we have received many encouraging emails and comments on the COPA Safety Program. Here are samples of feedback we received from a survey we sent out for our January seminar (which drew in nearly 700 participants):

“Excellent material. Best thing COPA has done in a long time. Lots of good, new and useful information”
“Fantastic. Thank you, COPA! Your good hard prep work benefits us all and if advice followed will save our lives. Looking forward to the next, hugely popular, Canada-wide-attended session. It really does make us a flying community, and all on the same page.”
“The seminar was excellent. Great for new pilots, a good refresher for experienced pilots and owners. I learned a number of things. The modernized presentations were impactful, new slides, lots of video content, clear presentation delivery. Well done!”
“Much appreciated to have access to a seminar. Being from a more remote location, this isn’t normally available here.”
Safety by the numbers
In the same January survey referenced above, 96% of seminar participants confirmed they were now more aware of the requirement to carry a survival kit that has sufficient supplies to keep you comfortable for 48 hours straight on flights beyond the local (25-mile area). Ninety-seven per cent of our survey respondents also cited feeling better prepared to mitigate risks associated with winter flying.

These are the type of numbers we can share with our insurance providers in demonstrating more awareness and compliance to regulations, and more importantly a potential decrease in the number of GA related incidents and accidents.

While many of us would not have chosen this route, COVID-19 has presented COPA and its senior management with an opportunity to do different things and to do the same things we’ve done for many years, differently. We’ve been challenged to re-imagine our programs in a virtual world and to use these new approaches to help us enhance safety while growing the General Aviation movement in Canada both today and beyond the pandemic.

So what’s next?
Through our January survey, 66% of respondents indicated a Saturday afternoon seminar as an ideal time to attend as it accommodates different time zones in Canada. While we intend to continue being inclusive of our geographically diverse membership, we are exploring how we can accommodate other preferences. Before we considered making the online switch, we reviewed the tools that were out there, trialing Zoom and finally landing on WebinarJam for our monthly online seminars. WebinarJam may enable us to support this request in future years.

Lastly, these highly successful seminars rely on your attendance – the more you share with your pilot friends and the more feedback you provide, the more we can adjust and improve COPA programming.

Future seminars will include a variety of speakers, and I invite you to visit our website to determine which seminars interest you: https://copanational.org/en/safety/.

Our next seminar is scheduled for March 20th from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and it meets the Pilot Recurrent Training Program requirements of CAR 401.05. In this seminar, we will examine how we can fly smarter and plan to mitigate risks before we confront them in the air. The first topic will focus on the En Route portion of flight and the second half of the seminar will address how to manage the risk of flying GA aircraft as we emerge from the COVID–19 lockdown.

Will we see you there?