13 May 2020

COVID-19 and air sports: how the aerobatics community is bearing up

With air sports suffering during the COVID-19 outbreak, many pilots around the globe have found that practicing their passion has become increasingly difficult or even impossible. Furthermore, many organisers of local and international competitions had to make the decision to either cancel or postpone events. It was the same situation for organisers of Commission Plenaries and the FAI General Conference.

Within FAI, each Air Sports Commission, for each discipline, evaluates the specific situation it faces. In short, Commissions are trusted to take the appropriate decisions. The role of the FAI Executive Board and Secretariat is to share, assist and support the Commissions as needed.

Powered and glider aerobatics is among the air sports affected by the pandemic. We asked Nick Buckenham (top picture), the President of the FAI Aerobatics Commission (CIVA), about how the community is holding up.
How has COVID-19 affected the competitions planned for this year and for 2021 ?

Inevitably almost everything we do has been strongly affected by the Covid-19 situation so far this year, and recently we have received decisions from three of our four 2020 championships to defer these events into 2021. The underlying view in CIVA is that provided our event organisers all agree it will be most sensible to declare 2020 as a "non-year" for aerobatic championships and simply shift everything forward by 12 months, including of course existing sanctions for events further into the future. This will be the fairest solution, as it will disadvantage no-one more than the others.
How is the powered and glider aerobatics community reacting to these changes ?

With some frustration! Any serious attempts at training are largely on hold at the moment, so team developments and even aerobatic flying for fun are heavily impacted. Clearly also the prospect for our officials - judges, assistants and jury - to travel to and work at a 2020 championship will be severely affected by government regulations and the need for continued self-isolation, so it seems unlikely that most events will be able to proceed as originally planned.
It is impossible for many pilots to train at the moment due to the lockdown in place in many countries. How is the community reacting to the situation ? Which message would you like to send to them ?

There is really very little that we can do about this extraordinary situation. Everyone that I have contacted is making the best possible use of the lock-down restrictions to keep up-to-date with their longer term preparations.
The next CIVA Annual Meeting was originally due to take place in November in Dallas, USA. What is the status of that meeting ?

So far there has been little discussion on this topic, but it does need to be addressed soon. The international air travel situation will need to be substantially restored to make it possible for delegates to attend this meeting, as the prospect doesn't look too positive right now. Maybe a distributed online meeting solution can be possible with sufficient preparation, though debates and the subsequent voting processes present significant problems that will need to be overcome. This whole subject will be reviewed by our friends in Dallas and the bureau during the coming weeks.
What is this difficult situation bringing to the CIVA community and officials - anything positive ? Any new way of working ?

Not much of this qualifies as positive I'm afraid. Of course we have had time to get all our administrative affairs thoroughly updated, but the general feeling is that looking after "number one" and family safety are the most important aspects. Even aircraft maintenance is directly affected, we hear of delays all round, and of course as almost everyone is off-work their holiday entitlements are being eroded and the cash to fund aerobatics is probably now destined to cover other more pressing needs.
Any other comments you would like to add ?

We have been greatly heartened by the strength and solidarity of the worldwide aerobatic community, who by and large have got on with life to the very best of their ability. A significant proportion of our colleagues however are commercial pilots, whose longer term work outlook is being considerably affected... we can only hope that they are able to keep their careers secure and restart their proper jobs as soon as this becomes possible.

Photo credit: Marcus King