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There’s no question the current COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the aviation industry, but we’ve seen a number of maintenance and support businesses dig in and implement measures in order to stay operational and weather the storm. Levaero Aviation is one of those outfits.
Though the company has had to suffer through temporary staff reductions to keep its doors open, Steve Davey, executive vice-president, COO and director of maintenance at Levaero, said the company is still offering the same services it always has in terms of maintenance and parts.
“But what it has done is change the way we do the work,” he said. According to Davey, Leavero’s production planning now includes an emphasis on disinfecting incoming and outgoing aircraft, limiting direct contact with customers, and assigning tasks that can be completed with maintenance staff still practising social distancing — measures that would have been considered outlandish in a pre-pandemic world.
Along with staffing cuts, one of Levaero’s first corporate actions in response to the developing crisis was to cancel all non-essential travel, which was “basically everything” according to Davey. Then, the company locked down its facility so only employees who are scheduled to work would be able to enter.
“The doors are locked and no one is admitted unless they absolutely need to be and they meet the criteria to enter,” he explained. “We’re fortunate that we have a large work environment with very few people still in it so everyone has their space.”
For its next step, the company manufactured “gallons” of its own hand sanitizer — made from 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol and 30 per cent aloe gel — which is now being used liberally throughout its facility along with spray bottles of disinfectant.
“Everyone has been great at maintaining a culture of physical distancing and sanitizing,” Davey continued.
For the staff who have remained with the company during the pandemic, adjustments were made for shifts and operating hours that have allowed Levaero to “maintain a wide coverage of hours while limiting the number of maintenance staff in the hangar at any given time.”
Maintenance staff have always been provided personal protective equipment (PPE), however Davey said it’s being used “more often and for different purposes now.”
As for the work itself, Davey explained that Levaero felt a “fairly abrupt” reduction in maintenance visits and parts sales, though the team is working to fill empty maintenance slots.
“We expected it would reduce to some extent, but like the COVID-19 situation itself, the workload changed very quickly,” he said. “Many of our customers are not flying; they’re staying home and they’re postponing or cancelling shop visits.”
For the work it continues to do, the company is treating any and all parts or aircraft as if they’re infected.
“We implemented a COVID-19 aircraft disinfecting procedure that we apply to all incoming and outgoing aircraft,” Davey added. “We assume that all incoming aircraft are infected and then the maintenance employees use their PPE while they disinfect.”
For employees who have to handle parts and equipment, gloves are worn and any packaging plus the item itself is disinfected.
“For parts and aircraft, we use isopropyl alcohol [for disinfection],” he said. “Depending on what we’re disinfecting, its either diluted with distilled water — 70 per cent, 30 per cent mix of isopropyl and water — or used undiluted. The diluted alcohol can affect painted surfaces where the non-diluted alcohol does not.
“Most importantly, everyone is staying diligent with frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.”
Other shops across the country are taking similar steps as the outbreak has developed, and there is little certainty about what lies ahead for the aviation industry.
“It’s so dynamic that it’s really difficult to predict what we’re going to experience over the next few days, let alone months. I hope we’re not facing more layoffs but that’s certainly a possibility. Even when things start to return to normal, it’s going to take many months for the industry to rebound. It’s quite possible that some of the employees won’t be available to return to work when we recall them and that will have a lasting effect,” Davey concluded.
While some may be considered drastic, these operational changes have been made by the company in order to continually serve an aviation community doing what it can to aid humanitarian efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Levaero has taken these measures in order to continually serve critical sectors, who are providing services such as medevac flights and delivering cargo to northern communities who need it most.