FEATURE: Protecting employees and implementing new cleaning procedures – West Star Aviation’s COVID-19 response

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Debi Cunningham, vice president of marketing, outlines West Star Aviation’s response to the global pandemic.

Have you been able to stay open/offer your full array of services throughout?
All our locations have remained open during this pandemic, as we were considered an essential business.

What new operational procedures have you implemented?
Our main concerns were keeping our employees safe while keeping our customers’ projects on track. We followed every recommendation of the CDC and our local government to remain safe. Of course, we had to learn about proper disinfection quickly, making sure to only use appropriate products on the interior and avionics that would not adversely affect the materials and/or operation of equipment. Another priority was ordering a variety of cleaners/disinfectants and machines that would assist with disinfecting the aircraft. We created cleaning crews throughout our organisation, ensuring we had trained personnel that were educated in how to properly clean and disinfect each aircraft.

How has demand been impacted, both in terms of work volume and the type of work?
We have been lucky that we have remained busy during this pandemic. But we did have some customers reschedule projects because their owners/companies requested to ground the aircraft until they felt safe to resume normal business. We also offered customers the chance to bring in projects early, or if there were any disinfection concerns, we offered to store the aircraft in-house. While on-site we would maintain their engine/aircraft runs, either until their input date or during the entire stay.

Have you had staffing challenges?
We have kept our current workforce busy throughout the pandemic. We had several positions to fill before this started, which we put on hold, and now we are ramping back up to fill the positions we were originally looking to.

Have you had supply chain challenges?
Not many, the main challenges we had the first month were obtaining masks and disinfectant products that were needed for use on customers’ aircraft. Those have since been resolved.

What other challenges have you faced?
The challenge and balance of keeping our employees safe, while keeping them working, and keeping our customers and their aircraft safe so they were confident about bringing their projects to us as originally planned. We are now assisting customers with rescheduling any projects that may have been put on hold.

Are there any actions you would like to see from regulators, suppliers or government?
We would like to see a vaccine, so this does not become an occurrence with each flu season.

Are there changes you’ve made that you think will be permanent?
Our safety measures will remain in place for a long time, because they have been engrained in our workforce as part of normal procedures, which is a good continued practice.

Do you think there will be any long-term changes to the industry going forward?
We believe the industry will come out of this stronger than ever. It would make sense that there would be an increase in corporate/private travel as those that can afford it would gravitate to it now with so much concern around germs and social distancing. We are ready for whatever the industry brings us.

Are you planning any adjustments to your operations in light of these predictions?
It has been interesting to see people working off-site/from home and the amount of work that has been done while doing so. There have been major improvements in technology to do so and along with the priority of keeping our workforce healthy, there will be some that may still find balance working from home, while others will return as soon as protocol allows.

Check out the upcoming July 2020 issue of Business Jet Interiors International for a full report on how completion centres around the world have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About Author

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Izzy has been part of the Business Jet Interiors International team since its second issue, and the editor since 2011. She also edits Auditoria and Railway Interiors International. Outside of work, Izzy is rediscovering her love of art by learning how to paint with watercolors.

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