National Aviation Day was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 on the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday, and every year since, we commemorate the day and salute all who have a role in making the miracle of flight possible – from pilots to flight crews to technicians and manufacturers. They are the backbone of this industry and its greatest resource.
2020 marks the 81st anniversary of National Aviation Day, and this year we have seen how the wonder of aviation has kept people connected and enabled the transport of critical medical supplies around the world during an unprecedented season.
At the onset of the pandemic, U.S. passenger airlines worked with the State Department to gain the proper approvals to repatriate thousands of people who had their travel plans displaced back to the United States. The efforts spanned far and wide across the globe:
American Airlines operated 88 missions from Latin America and the Caribbean, with one charter flight departing a Peruvian military base near Lima, Peru for Miami International Airport, where they were greeted with a water cannon salute. The flight flew more than 200 U.S. citizens back to the United States.
Delta Air Lines assisted with repatriating more than 28,000 people on more than 100 charter flights to more than 20 countries and territories, including Argentina, India, Philippines and South Korea. The effort incorporated teams across Delta, such as the airport ramp teams, who handled an average of 650 bags per charter flight at Delta’s Salt Lake City hub.
United Airlines flew nearly 18,500 people home on more than 130 flights from Latin America, including Peru, Ecuador and Honduras. Additionally, the carrier has been operating flights between Delhi and its San Francisco and Newark hubs.
Throughout the pandemic, carriers have supported frontline responders by offering free flights to assist with hot spots around the country, as well as donating medical supplies and critical protective gear to healthcare workers. This is simply a small snapshot of what was made possible through the innovation of aviation:
- Alaska Airlines shipped almost 25,000 masks to the state of Alaska.
- Atlas Air donated air cargo to NYU Langone Health to fly two flights filled with medical supplies.
- American Airlines partnered with Deloitte to transport more than 40,000 medical gowns to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
- Delta Air Lines transported more than 300 volunteers to nearly 30 states to assist with states’ coronavirus response.
- FedEx Express flew nearly one million test swabs from Italy to Memphis in 80 hours.
- Hawaiian Airlines chartered a flight to transport millions of face masks to the islands.
- JetBlue collaborated with Mercury Medical to donate 2,500 disposable CPAP devices to New York State.
- Southwest Airlines utilized unused travel funds from Deloitte to transport medical professionals in the University of California healthcare system.
- United Airlines worked with Flexport to deliver thousands of essential medical supplies to medical facilities in New York.
- UPS shipped critical medical protective gear in partnership with the University of Louisville, including face shields manufactured at the university.
Today, U.S. airlines remain committed to helping protect the safety and wellbeing of passengers and employees from curb to gate as passengers begin returning to the skies. Major U.S. airlines have voluntarily implemented extensive multi-layered approaches to provide layers of protection and carriers have established intensive cleaning procedures that often exceed CDC guidance.
Passengers are also required to complete a health acknowledgement form prior to check-in and comply with face covering requirements as an additional measure of protection. Additionally, aircraft are equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which clean the air multiple times an hour and generate hospital-grade air quality.
While flying looks different than usual in today’s day and age, it remains one of the nation’s most critical services. Today, on National Aviation Day, we are grateful for the efforts of everyone in the aviation ecosystem – from ramp workers to ticket agents – who are working to connect the world and ensure that everyone can #FlyHealthyFlySmart.