Cirrus planes

Western Michigan University's College of Aviation's Cirrus planes. 

COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on the country’s air transportation system and has left the airline industry reeling. 

Measures intended to slow the growth of the disease in the U.S. like social distancing and a travel ban from Europe have come with severe financial consequences for even the biggest and most successful airlines.

United Airlines recently announced a 50% cut in overall capacity that is likely to extend into the summer as well as a hiring freeze and hefty pay cuts for corporate officers effective immediately. Similarly, the CEO of Delta Airlines Ed Bastian has relinquished 100% of his salary for the next six months and is in the process of temporarily eliminating 40% of the carrier’s schedule. "The speed of the demand fall-off is unlike anything we've seen - and we've seen a lot in our business,” said Bastian in a letter to Delta’s employees.

American Airlines is taking steps to reduce its international capacity by 75% and domestic capacity by 20-30%. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has estimated there could be upwards of $113 billion in lost revenue for passenger airlines across the world before this outbreak comes to a halt.

However, it’s not just the airline industry feeling the heat of the novel coronavirus. Even the day-to-day flight operations at the WMU College of Aviation in Battle Creek have been affected by the pandemic.

On the same day President Montgomery made the announcement that instruction delivery would shift to distance learning until April 3rd, the WMU College of Aviation responded by suspending flight training until the university returns to in-person education. The following day, the decision to suspend flight and simulator training was reversed. Although flight students will not be required to attend pilot training moving forward, they will be permitted to do so.

The College of Aviation has already taken several precautions to ensure the safety of its students and employees including seeking alternative employment opportunities for hourly flight instructors who do not wish to continue providing instruction and conducting a deep cleaning of each aircraft in the fleet once a day. 

A routine cockpit cleaning schedule has also been established in order to disinfect high touch points between each flight. Due to the cleaning protocols, aircraft and simulator availability throughout the day is expected to initially decrease by around 50%

“We are in uncharted times,” said Tom Grossman, Executive Director of Flight Operations at WMU in a statement. “I have confidence our resiliency will overcome these challenges.”

 This story is outdated as a part of ongoing coverage of COVID-19. You can find the most recent story here.

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