Welcome to 6 Minutes in Aviation Security. I am Jeff Price. Let’s see what is making news this week. Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Ryan Breznau, a 2005 graduate of the school’s aviation program and a long time pilot for Delta Airlines hosted an alumni discussion over Zoom earlier this week to discuss the long-term effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry. The long and the short of it is everything’s going to be okay. But in the short-term, we’re going to go through some rough times. By that I mean, in the long-term our country and the rest of the world will eventually be flying again but there’s going to be some pain and suffering in the meantime.
The pandemic is a Black Swan level event. Nobody plans for those. You really can’t plan for them. Right now, all of the airlines are in a hiring freeze. However the airlines are still leasing aircraft and they still have new aircraft on order. From a hiring perspective, the news is hang in there. Be thinking 3 to 4 years out not the immediate situation at hand because in time this too shall pass. When flight operations start back up, many pilots will have taken early retirement or will soon be forced to retire at 65. Right now most of the baby boomer generation has just about hit retirement.
How things will turn out in the long run will depend on the economy which we all know is not looking too good right now. Airlines need a good economy to make money. So goes the economy, so goes the airlines. If there’s another surgeon of coronavirus as the states begin lifting the quarantine orders and possibly another surge when the Fall cold and flu season starts back up, that will definitely affect the long term recovery.
Tom Cruise is making news again, proposing to NASA to make its first movie in space. “This is ground control to Major Tom”… now you know why I got thrown off American Idol…Hey Tom, I tell you what. If you ever need a wingman on this film, give me a call. I will fly with you.
Now for a special report. It’s called a mode shift. The long-term impacts of the airline industry have little to do with the virus itself and more to do with the technology we’ve become reliant upon since the beginning of the quarantine. I’m talking about the zoom effect. Shortly after 9/11, I attended the very first Aviation Security Summit of the United States where many of us discussed whether there would be a mode shift with people going from flying to video conferencing. That didn’t happen mostly because technology at the time was not very good. Everyone kind of looked like Max Headroom on a video conference. But now, we’ve all been really forced to adopt Zoom for everything from conferences, teaching our kids, routine business calls, alternate ways to connect with clients… all while wearing a shirt and literally nothing else.
The zoom effect is a legitimate concern. Aviation may look a little different a couple of years from now but it is still going to be here. Many companies have found employees more productive at home and utilizing Zoom. Capital One and Amazon are extending their stay at home policies until the fall of this year. And Google and Facebook told their staff they can stay home until 2021.
There is always going to be a need to meet person to person to conduct business and of course leisure passengers are really immune from the zoom effect. However, about 50% of the passenger travel is for business which is the reliable revenue stream that airlines need. Today, business people can legitimately ask, “Do I need to fly or can I do this on a Zoom call?” If just a few business passengers from a few companies do that a few times a year, it can add up to a tremendous amount of cost and a long-term impact on airline revenue streams. But this is a resilient industry. Plus there are things you can’t do over Zoom that you can do in person, where trust is developed where two people are face-to-face. You can read their tone of voice, their body language, their mannerisms… much better than can over a webcam. No matter what the zoom effect impacts, airlines are going to find alternate streams of revenue. They are very good at that. They are going to find different uses for those airplanes. Look how fast some of the passenger carriers switched to cargo on a short-term. We will continue to adapt to whatever new reality is on the horizon. Aviation is with us, it’s here to stay, it’s not going anywhere.
Now, it’s time for the weekly weather outlook and I’ve just received an update. (Pause to read the weather, just not out loud.)
Also making news last week is the tragic death of an individual at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. He was struck and killed by a Southwest Airlines flight landing in the evening when he was standing on the runway. Police are still investigating how the man got onto airport property. The pilots did take evasive action when they saw the man but he was apparently still struck by the left engine, declared dead on the scene. How does this rate on the scale of a security breaches? First off, on the scale of tragedy, this is tragic. But from a security perspective, it really does not rate very high, not much of a risk. Most of our system is designed to protect the aircraft more than the property. The property is actually part of the protection of the aircraft. And there just haven’t been enough security breaches really to warrant policy changes to reduce the risk of the traveling public.
Hey, how many of you are like me and are on mullett watch? This is my covid-19 haircut or lack thereof. I do not know about you, but my hair is now as long as it used to be in high school back in the early eighties. In fact I am pretty sure I am one dog, one van, three weird friends and a bag of weed from having my own Saturday morning cartoon show.
And in our new segment, Harrison Ford Watch. In this segment, we keep you up-to-date on how long it’s been since actor Harrison Ford has had an aviation incident. As of May 13th, 2020, it’s been 19 days. Way to go Harrison. We are all pulling for you. Plus I need to get all of the mileage I can out of paying the licensing fee to use his picture for a year so you are going to see Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford a lot this year. This stuff’s not cheap.
That’s it for this week’s update. Join us next week where we’ll talk about the security risks that come along with a pandemic. Please subscribe and like and if this isn’t the news you like, go make some of your own. Maybe we will report on it.