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Solo flying in areas with shelter-in-place policy
Answered By AOPA
Currently there is a shelter-in-place policy active in CA. The official rules indicate that travel is only allowed for essential services.
Outdoor activity (walking, hiking, running) is allowed as long as social distance is observed.
Solo flying either for fun or practice does not seem to be 'essential', and is also not a direct 'outdoor activity', however, is needed to maintain proficiency, keep currency, and as long as it is solo, still observes social distance.
It seems though that with the current ruling (which may not be detailed enough on the flying aspect) does not allow for flying, even solo, at all.
Can AOPA get this clarified or discuss this with states/cities enforcing this?
16 Replies
That's the question I have as well. While we here in Kentucky are not on such a draconian lock-down as California, there is no policy that I've read limiting the GA community. My local club is still renting aircraft but they require the plane to be wiped down inside before and after each use. I plan on doing a flight next week with a buddy and they didn't seem to have a problem. It would be nice if AOPA would address this issue and let us know if there is a government stance on GA activities. 
Under CA Executive Order N-33-20 (the recent shelter in place directive) it specifically exempts 16 critical sectors, Transportation being one of them, and within the transportation sector there are seven key sub-sectors, or modes.  Aviation is one of those "key sub-sectors".
Here is a link to the order:

In that order under, on the first page, under item #1, second paragraph, is a link to the federal critical infrastructure sectors:

When you go into the "Transportation Sector", you will find the seven key sub-sectors, or modes.  Here is Aviation:

"The Transportation Systems Sector consists of seven key sub-sectors, or modes:

  • Aviation includes aircraft, air traffic control systems, and about 19,700 airports, heliports, and landing strips. Approximately 500 provide commercial aviation services at civil and joint-use military airports, heliports, and sea plane bases.  In addition, the aviation mode includes commercial and recreational aircraft (manned and unmanned) and a wide-variety of support services, such as aircraft repair stations, fueling facilities, navigation aids, and flight schools."
Bottom line is you need to use good common sense.  The purpose of the "shelter-in-place" is to keep from spreading the virus.
Thanks for the clarification!
AOPA = Thank you for your response to Erwin's question.  Unfortunately Illinois recently did a similar thing to aviation.  I back Erwin's response, we need to maintain currency (especially we taildragger pilots), but at the same time there's no better way to maintain social distance than being several thousand feet in the air, and we are also contributing to income in our state since we all probably pay fuel tax.  It's a win-win-win for everyone.  So long as a pilot isn't flying internationally, or gathering in groups of more than 10, I'm a supporter of getting the wind beneath our wings!  Fly safely if you choose to do so, and stay healthy and safe everyone!  😎 
There are also other qualifications that allow you to fly.  For example I am a volunteer sworn deputy serving as a pilot for the San Francisco Sheriff's Air Squadron.  That exempts me under the emergency services sector under law enforcement / aviation units.  The sector description specifically calls out that emergency services personnel are trained and can be paid or voluntary.  I share this as some of you no doubt serve in similar organizations.  Have to stay proficient and keep the plane airworthy to serve when called.
Keep in mind that while the federal government has issued guidance such as "Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19" it is not mandatory, and state and local orders may follow/adopt such guidance or come up with their own list of essential or exempt infrastructure, which may be more restrictive than the federal guidance.
Also, travel to and from the airport is not subject to FAA jurisdiction. AOPA is not currently aware of any guidance or order from the FAA (or any federal agency) that allows an individual to ignore state or local orders and indisputably be relied upon by an individual as an authority to travel to the airport to conduct these operations.
Don't assume that just because the airport, or a business at the airport, is open that the state or local orders permit travel to the airport.  Whether this type of travel is permitted depends entirely on the specific state and local (county, city, etc.) orders that apply to the situation.
Many states and local governments are issuing official "interpretative guidance" of orders that are issued.  For example, here in Maryland, the Office of Legal Counsel is issuing interpretive guidance of the Maryland Governor's Orders.  Every state and local government is different.  You may want to check with the office that is responsible for the order, as many provide a point of contact for further clarification.