Chairman’s Note: On-Aircraft PCR Testing Increases Flexibility and Reduces Risk on International Missions

PT 3 M minute read

Dear friends and colleagues,

At Universal, we’re always looking at ways to reduce operational challenges and risks for our customers and genuinely make their lives easier. For example, in my own personal travels since the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges has been finding access to reliable and convenient testing.

That’s why I’m excited to talk about a new program that really alleviates the burden of managing COVID testing on international missions – On-Aircraft COVID Testing.

COVID testing isn’t going away.

Since the early days of the pandemic, proof of a negative COVID test has been a standard requirement for entering most countries.

Earlier this year, we briefly saw this requirement begin to go away for the fully vaccinated. However, with the proliferation of the Delta variant, most countries have since reinstated some form of a COVID testing mandate for entry, and it looks like this will continue to be a necessity for international travel for a while.

But it carries challenges and risks for international mission planning.

Trying to manage COVID testing abroad creates severe logistical challenges and risks for business aircraft operators, potentially impacting the success of any international mission. These can include:

  • Scheduling a trip to the hospital or lab into a tight itinerary
  • Lost time and extra costs for a commute
  • If remote technicians are an option, they aren’t always available for your preferred time
  • Physical security risks
  • Health exposure risks
  • Passenger comfort around strangers touching them
  • Data privacy concerns in a foreign country
  • Risk that retesting may be required after a false positive or inconclusive result

The solution is on-aircraft COVID testing.

We’ve spent the better part of a year working on this issue to develop a solution to effectively address this. The answer: Certifying the aircraft as a mobile testing lab.

We partnered with Cedars Health, an expert in mobile laboratory services, to develop a program in which N-registered aircraft can be certified as a mobile laboratory – i.e., On-Aircraft COVID Testing.

And it’s working VERY WELL.

We initially piloted the program with a handful of international operators and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback on the whole process. Since then, many operators have joined the program, and they’re telling us the benefits they’re realizing from this solution:

  • Perfect for tight itineraries.
  • Maximizes operational flexibility, especially when dealing with last-minute changes.
  • Easier on your passengers and crew.
  • Provides more privacy, better data security, and better physical safety.
  • Reduces wasted time on the ground.
  • Eliminates extra costs for transportation to/from the lab.
  • Risk Mitigation: A perfect “Plan B” option to always have in your back pocket at a moment’s notice.

How it works.

  • SET UP: Complete a mobile lab certification process for designated crew and aircraft. This involves receiving testing equipment and supplies, completion of virtual training by crew that will be administering the tests. There are options for both PCR and Antigen testing based on the countries you visit and their entry requirements.
  • TESTING: Certified crew will be able to collect samples and run COVID tests onboard the lab-certified aircraft. The process takes about 30 minutes to prep the area, put on the PPE, collect the samples, and run the tests.
  • ANAYLSIS & REPORTING: Data is securely transmitted via HIPAA-compliant web portal to the experts at Cedars Health, who analyze the data and issue the certified lab test result within 15 minutes.
  • TRIP SUPPORT: Universal Trip Support verifies health entry requirements for your planned mission and works with Cedars Health to have their lab team ready and on-call based on your flight schedule.

Accepted globally.

Working through our global network of Universal Aviation FBOs and third-party preferred ground handlers, we’ve validated that this program is now accepted by over 160 countries.

Getting started.

It’s an easy conversion. Ask your Universal Account Manager, your Trip Support Team, or contact us online.

Keep the feedback coming.

We love hearing the success stories that this program has brought to our customers. If you’re already using this and it’s making your life easier, please let me know.

And in the meantime, if there’s anything else we could be doing to make operating in today’s COVID environment easier, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Safe travels!