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The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on general aviation, as well as pilots’ humanitarian actions, dominated aviation news. Since March, AOPA has published nearly 300 stories and briefs related to COVID-19 on its breaking news page, ranging from the FAA’s special federal aviation regulations granting pilots some extensions to expiring medicals and certificates to tips for disinfecting cockpits, safely carrying passengers, air traffic service impacts, humanitarian missions to produce and deliver personal protective equipment, to socially distanced activities and eateries near airports. Aviation events throughout the year were either scrubbed or switched to virtual. The Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo, EAA AirVenture, and AOPA’s regional fly-ins were all canceled, and the National Business Aviation Association changed its annual in-person conference to a virtual event. Later in the year, some smaller events continued, including the Antique Airplane Association’s annual fly-in in Iowa and Sun ‘n Fun’s Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show.
Threats to GPS navigation grabbed pilots’ attention. The year started off with a threat to GPS in the form of large-scale jamming in the Southeast during a military exercise. Threats to GPS intensified once the Federal Communications Commission approved the proposed Ligado Networks 5G wireless network in April. AOPA and the aviation community have fought back because of concerns that the network could interfere with GPS signals.
Pilots reached out to AOPA throughout the year, alarmed by substantial increases of 10 to 100 percent in their hull and liability insurance premiums. AOPA President Mark Baker has worked to educate insurers about pilots’ safety and training, and has spoken out on behalf of pilots during online conferences and webinars. In December, AOPA’s strategic insurance partner AssuredPartners Aerospace announced that it had teamed with an aviation insurer to explore options for pilots up to age 79.
High-profile accidents claimed lives and tarnished GA’s image. In January, basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter accident in California. In April, the National Transportation Safety Board released its factual report in the 2017 fatal accident of Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay. The report revealed that Halladay, who was flying his Icon Aircraft A5, was “heavily impaired by a noxious variety of drugs, operating without full appreciation for the risks of low-altitude flying,” wrote AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden in an analysis of the data. Meanwhile, a 74-year-old pilot was lauded after making a safe emergency landing on a busy freeway without damaging any vehicles on
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