You may have noticed the unprecedented reduction in aircraft activity resulting from the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. This is expected to last for some time yet. However, in the coming days you may notice some unusual flight activity at as a result of two reasons:
1) As part of a contingency programme to enable patients to be rapidly transferred to hospitals within the region, the military will have a force of Puma helicopters available for such duties. In poor weather conditions, helicopter pilots will need to undertake what is known as a ‘cloud break’ procedure, where the aircraft needs to safely descend until the pilot has visual contact with the ground. For helicopters en-route to local hospitals, that procedure will involve using the standard approach procedures for Birmingham Airport – effectively following the ILS approaches until visual contact is made with the ground, at which point they will fly directly to their destination hospital. The military has requested that training flights be undertaken within the next few days so that pilots can practice these procedures.
2) With airlines having grounded their majority of their fleets, opportunities for pilots to undertake the required number of flying hours needed to maintain their licences are severely reduced. Some of our airline partners have therefore requested that a number (as yet unknown) of training flights be permitted to facilitate this. The numbers of both types of operations is expected to be very small in comparison to normal operations, but given that normal flying operations have virtually ceased, they may well be more noticeable to residents than would ordinarily be the case.