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The Helicopter Association of Canada (HAC) has called upon the federal government to provide financial and administrative relief to help helicopter operators, OEMs and suppliers weather the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
In an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and three other cabinet ministers, HAC president Fred Jones said the association supported the government’s actions in attempting to limit the spread of the virus, but said that the current situation “has the potential to threaten the survival” of many of the association’s members.
In addition to “urgently needed” financial assistance to reduce the hardship the crisis presents, Jones called for the government to approve online training for pilots to help them avoid travel, and asked for the validity of pilot proficiency checks and recurrent testing to be extended.
“We urge you to implement a financial aid package for the air transportation industry, immediately,” Jones wrote.
The government has urged Canadians to “avoid all non-essential air travel,” and Jones said this has caused projects and all but essential operations in the helicopter industry to be cancelled.
Operators, he pointed out, would normally be preparing for the busy summer season, with crews getting ready for spring training and proficiency testing.
Having to do this preparation while conforming to self-isolation standards will be a particular challenge, said Jones
“The 14-day self-isolation process for employees returning from international travel, and travel restrictions [themselves] are frustrating our members that need to send their crews outside the country or elsewhere in Canada for training or ground school,” he said.
To avoid the delay in allowing these employees to return to work, Jones called for the government to allow online training for initial or recurrent company ground training.
“Particularly for helicopter operators that provide emergency medical services, fire-suppression services and services to northern, remote and indigenous communities, and to communities during break-up – crews unable to fly because of lapsed training/testing/ground school could be life threatening,” he said.
Finally, he asked for the government to extend the validity of current pilot proficiency checks and recurrent training/testing/recurrent ground school requirements until at least October 2020, or until the government declares the pandemic is over.
“Thousands of jobs and many communities rely on the operation of the commercial helicopter industry,” said Jones.