An already-established rescue team set in place, Clive elaborates on the three main elements of Victor Rescue’s activities: medical flights, repatriation and key worker flights.
“When COVID-19 came to Europe, we had a fair amount of foreign nationals stuck in different countries. Travel restrictions followed swiftly,” Clive recounts. “We had one mission – a family that was stranded in Morocco, which had established a full lockdown, even for hotels. We had to work very hard with local authorities, the UK foreign office, and even a UK minister, to get the family on an aircraft back to the UK. The added challenge was that one of the youngest family members had a serious medical condition. We were able to execute the mission successfully and they’re safe at home now.”
Concerning other repatriation and medical emergency flights, Clive recalls another mission: “We had a transatlantic flight from the United States back to the United Kingdom. Someone had fallen very ill, but the family couldn’t risk that person flying on a commercial airline, for fear of contaminating others.”
In addition to those critical missions, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a number of hospitals to reach their full capacity, and healthcare teams are stretched thin to accommodate the demand.
“In a normal situation, flying key workers consisted of transporting people for classified military projects, infrastructure, or building projects,” Clive explains. “But in light of the pandemic, we’ve been transporting medical teams as well. We recently brought 25 National Health Service (NHS) heroes to Gibraltar, to support local hospitals.”
A Smart Solution for Travel Restrictions
All these missions are not without their fair share of challenges however, the major one being the established travel restrictions. Victor came up with an efficient solution to accommodate the daily changes in airport and country access limitations. Drawing from multiple sources, the flight operations and software development teams calculated an algorithm to search any destination and find the related travel bans. They then opened up the portal for public use, so everyone could benefit from it.
“Once we’ve established that a customer requires essential travel, our next step is to check what’s available – for example, is there a mandated or self-imposed quarantine at the destination?” Clive questions. “It’s a challenge to remain on top of the right information, at the right time.”
He also touches on the types of missions they’ve performed: “Another hurdle is sourcing the right aircraft, especially if it’s a time-sensitive flight. For medical flights, we need to determine whether we need intensive care capacity, or a medical team, or isolation units… Working together with our partners, we choose the right aircraft for the right job.”
With staff dispersed across the country, working from home, the final challenge is making sure staff morale remains high.
“It helps that we’re able to actively contribute to this crisis,” Clive shares. “There are no leisure flights right now. All of our performed flights were deemed essential travel.”
A responsibility to help
“What the world really needs to know about business aviation, is that we’re providing a critical service, and supporting those in need,” Clive explains. “These situations are time-critical, and it’s our ability as an organisation to deliver on-demand, spot charter – choosing the right aircraft for the right mission. Despite some of the claims, business aviation is not a leisure activity. We are providing vital services in a time where commercial airlines are not flying and unable to respond dynamically.”
“I hope the perception will change – it’s not just about flying the rich, the glamourous, and the famous to exotic locations,” Clive continues. “We have a responsibility to do what we can, with the assets we provide. And this is mobility in extreme situations, to help out the needy, who are often in distress.”
With business aviation, there are no fixed crews and schedules. It’s understanding how many people need to move from one country to another, keeping in mind the speed at which it needs to happen, and what special circumstances are required.
“I think that is really where business aviation comes to the forefront, and fills a gap that commercial aviation is unable to,” Clive observes.
“Once the crisis is over, we have to return to our main focus: the environment,” Clive concludes. “Our company is trying to champion the carbon, sulphur, and nitrogen offset. COVID-19 has raised a very big question about the planet as a whole, and when it’s over, I hope we don’t lose sight of how we can protect the future of our planet, along with the health and safety of all humans.”
Discover Victor’s new podcast called “Victor Voices”, which offers behind-the-scenes insights to the world of business aviation.