Why I probably won’t be flying for a while.

Clue: It is not for any fear of catching COVID-19

No-one can have missed the obvious immediate effects on the Aerospace industry throughout most of the world, due to necessary COVID-19 response measures.

The first glimpse of this for us on the UK South Coast, was the demise of Flybe, the main company flying between Scotland and the South Coast, for the past few years.

As soon as coronavirus measures were first mentioned, they put their hands up in the air, instead of their planes, and went bust.

For me, this came as quite a shock, as only months earlier, I was commuting via Flybe, weekly to my Scottish homeland, to do my usual work, as a consulting Engineer, for a major Aerospace company.

With the collapse of Flybe came the realisation that commuting to Scotland was no longer a possibility for me.

Subsequently, a very large proportion of all commercial aircraft have been grounded, almost worldwide, for months.

This week, I undertook the task of putting my car back on the road again, after it too was garaged indoors, unmoving, for around two months.

Cars, especially the more complex examples, don’t take kindly to being neglected. It came as no surprise that I had to remove and recharge the battery, refitting the next day, also re-inflating all of the tyres, before I could drive it off.

Also, it came as no surprise the air-con had failed.

Air-con pumps are a classic example of mechanical things that hate being neglected.

What happens with those, when unused, moisture condenses inside the pump, which turns to ice when the pump is next energised, due to refrigeration effects inside the pump, the hard ice crunching around in the moving parts of the pump then causing havoc with gears, o-rings, and etc.

This is just one example of failure due to neglect that can occur in a vital physical system component, the kind of which appear throughout a complex working vehicle, such as a car, or much more complex; an aircraft.

Awareness of this comes of being involved in the multi-disciplinary design, and maintenance, of complex Aerospace Systems.

That is why I knew what to expect with my car, as well as having experienced it in the past, with multiple other cars.

And it is why I would worry very much about getting on a plane right now, or any time in the near future.

Statistically, that plane will most likely have had quite a few months neglected, unmoving, unmaintained, in its immediate history, just like my car.

If/when all aircraft are made airborne again, I have no doubt all reasonable checks and measures will be carried out, but again statistically, inevitably, hidden failures will be missed.

With the best will in the world, we cannot expect the safety record of flying not to be impacted by this period of pretty much all planes being necessarily grounded and neglected for months, for perhaps the first time in aviation history.

We have already seen one trajic crash in Pakistan, which appears so far to have been due to some kind of technical failure.

I hope it turns out to have nothing to do with the plane possibly being recently put back into service after a few months grounded, and trust that the investigation will look very closely at that possibility.

Meantime, I won’t be flying anytime soon.

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