The coronavirus pandemic is doing a hell of a number on everybody, but a special slice of chaos pie has been chucked at the aviation world. Chicago's Midway Airport had a few air traffic controllers test positive for COVID-19, and those aren't exactly replacement-level employees. Airports are looking like ghost towns, and concern over touching down in the United States inadvertently created a new record for the world's longest scheduled flight. The thing is, while there are some folks encouraging private jet travel for myriad reasons, there are still plenty of private jet charters who want nothing to do with this.
That honestly really sucks. People are getting stranded. They're looking for any solution at all that can get them home, where they pinky promise they'll stay quarantined. And sure, if you're in a big place like America, at least at the time of this writing, you can still drive places. But, if you're in a country or territory or whatever that's looking like it might shut its borders, and you have to get out and get home soon, there might be one last solution -- little puddle jumpers.
To be very clear here, the world is in a real rough place right now, and travel should be limited only to essential movement, such as getting the elderly and immunocompromised to safe places or getting some of these stranded college kids home or getting medical personnel to necessary places. Furthermore, in a tweet this morning, President Donald Trump announced a mutual agreement to close the border with Canada to nonessential travel, which throws off a bunch of the cool stuff I wanted to illustrate here.
But as for small, general aviation aircraft and flight services, there are a lot of benefits. Aircraft such as the Cessna 172 are some of the most reliable transportation on the planet. They have a cruising speed of over 100 mph and can kinda-comfortably fit a small group of 4, with a very small amount of baggage. They can fly for about 4 hours on a full load of fuel, which is enough to get you from about Chicago to Pittsburgh, and "wet rates" (including fuel) are usually somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$200 per hour if you're renting a pilot too. If "supporting small businesses" is your thing, you'll be happy to know that most little flight schools and airport businesses throughout the country would thoroughly appreciate your business in this trying time.
Concerned that it can't get you across the ocean? Well, turns out it can, it's just gonna take awhile. Remember how Sarah Palin could "see Russia from [her] house"? Yeah, you could fly that in a small plane. It's not easy, but you can do it. And the Atlantic? Well, Trump and Trudeau have (rightfully) shut down this particular avenue, but it's possible.To reiterate, travel should be really limited at this time, but we shouldn't count out general aviation's ability to be helpful. Forget about travel for a minute, there's so much potential for cargo operations with smaller aircraft during this crisis. Organizations such as the Civil Air Patrol regularly help with missions in all kinds of general aviation aircraft, and with this particular pandemic, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (the largest general aviation group in America) has signed a letter alongside other similar organizations pledging to be of service in disaster relief and other ways. Airports themselves have the space to set up disaster relief spaces, should that be necessary. Things look rough out there, but never count out the little airplanes that could.