Flying airplanes is an activity that involves some level of risk, just like driving a car or swimming in the ocean. As pilots, we manage this risk by making good decisions based on facts. We recognize that the risk of dying in an airplane crash is extremely low as long as we don’t do anything stupid like run out of fuel or fly into weather conditions that we’re not prepared to tackle. We accept that the benefits of flying far outweigh the risks. We are able to enjoy flying without fear.

Unfortunately, back on the ground it is painfully clear that the American public is not exercising sound risk management and common sense. The mainstream media, the big tech companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter, and politicians from both parties have succeeded in creating a culture of profound fear and anxiety. They have spent billions of dollars censoring the truth, to convince you to spend your precious days on this Earth worrying that COVID-19 is lurking around every corner, that every human you see or interact with is a threat to your life. They’ve told you to shut down your business, stay home, shut up and wait for a vaccine. They’ve told you to cover your face or you will be fined, banished from public spaces, or worse, you’ll end up dead — unless you do what they say. Now they are telling you how and if you should host holiday celebrations in your own home.

This carefully orchestrated COVID-19 panic scenario is not only unfounded, but it is destroying our American way of life, ironically, like a virus, from the inside out. They have sucked the joy out of everyday activities, destroyed small businesses, and created an unprecedented mental health crisis in the country for no valid reason whatsoever. It’s time to look at the facts, see the truth, and fight back.

The Facts

Just like the flu, COVID-19 is a real virus that can make some people very sick, especially the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions. However, for the overwhelming majority of people, this virus presents no greater health risk than the flu. We should be free to live our lives normally, without government intervention in the form of curfews, lockdowns, mask mandates, or other such restrictions.

There is no credible scientific evidence to support universal masking as a COVID-19 mitigation strategy, and there is mounting evidence that mask mandates have been entirely ineffective. Buried inside a CDC report on “community and close contact exposure” is this little factoid: “In the 14 days before illness onset, 71% of case-patients and 74% of control-participants reported always using cloth face coverings or other mask types when in public.” In fact, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that masks do not significantly reduce the risk of infection. But you won’t see any of this reported on the evening news.

Masks are being used as a vehicle of social control, under the guise of public safety. Surgical masks are worn by surgeons in operating rooms for reasons that have nothing to do with COVID-19.

Do The Math

CDC estimates that as many as 56 million people were sick with the flu in the U.S. during the 2019-2020 flu season, compared to about 15 million reported cases of COVID-19 as of December 7, 2020 (see screen shots below). Despite the flu being three times as prevalent as COVID-19, the CDC has never recommended that all Americans wear masks to avoid becoming infected with the flu.

The reason that’s often floated for mask mandates is that COVID-19 is statistically more deadly than the flu. But is it really? There is much reason to believe the death counts have been artificially inflated to promote fear. Even the CDC acknowledges that there are a host of pre-existing conditions that make someone more likely to die if they have COVID-19, and that a death is coded as COVID-19 if the virus was determined to be a cause of death, not the only cause of death.

Let’s do the math. There are approximately 330 million people in the United States, and the CDC claims that 281,000 of them have died with COVID-19 as a contributing factor. Compare that to the more than 1.2 million Americans the CDC estimates will die this year from cancer or heart disease. With basic grade school division, even if we accept the CDC COVID-19 case and death counts as accurate (which we don’t), we find that the average American this year has less than a tiny fraction of one percent chance of dying with COVID-19 as a contributing factor (.0008).

Here in Duval County, Florida, with a population of approximately 930,000, the CDC on December 7 reported 3,365 cases within the previous 7 days. The media throws this number out there to scare you, but recall that the virus only exists for a short period of time in any individual. In fact, the CDC recently updated its quarantine guidelines to suggest that infected individuals may pose little threat of transmission after just 7 days. That means during a given 7-day period, you have a less than half of one percent chance of coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in Duval County.

The Real Tragedy: Collateral Damage

If you operate or work for a small business like ours, you might appreciate the subtler daily struggles we have faced this year. I do my best to stay positive and productive, but I worry constantly about the state of our nation and our community. If you sneeze or cough, people look at you like you’re a leper. You can’t go anywhere without seeing a mask or signs reminding you to wear one. Shopping or going out to eat isn’t much fun anymore. I do most of my grocery shopping online with curbside pickup, though I occasionally venture into Walmart with my mask pulled down low in quiet protest.

The real threat of COVID-19 is the collateral damage caused by those who have used it as a tool to manipulate public opinion and behavior for their personal gain. If you have not done so already, please read The Great Barrington Declaration, a public statement written by infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists who have “grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies.”

We voluntarily closed during the entire month of April, as flight schools were considered “non-essential businesses.” Many students and renters were forced to put flying on hold indefinitely because they lost their “non-essential” jobs due to the shutdowns and other restrictions placed on businesses. Students who were able to weather the financial setbacks have told us that flying has provided them with a way to refocus their energy into something positive, and feel normal and welcome in a world that has simply gone mad. We have worked extremely hard to maintain as normal an atmosphere as possible so that flying continues to be fun and productive, not just for our customers but for our staff as well. We are cognizant of the need to minimize distractions during ground and flight lessons, and we view masks as an unnecessary distraction.

PIC Authority

The nature of our business grants us an exception from the City of Jacksonville’s mask ordinance, issued on June 29, 2020, which states that “Every operator, employee, customer or patron of a business establishment must wear a face mask or covering at all times while at that business establishment unless he or she is able to engage in social distancing or unless wearing a face mask or covering significantly interferes with the provision or receipt of goods or services offered or received at that establishment (i.e. patrons at a restaurant, clients at a barber shop or hair salon, patients at a dentist’s office).”

We are pilots, and as such, the conduct of our business is guided by FAA regulations. There is no FAA regulation requiring pilots to wear face masks at any time because of COVID-19. It is our professional opinion that wearing a face mask does significantly interfere with the provision and receipt of our flight instruction services, which rely on clear, effective communication between student, instructor and air traffic control. This communication involves verbal and physical cues, both of which are impeded by a face mask.

Reality Check

Between January 1 and November 30 of this year, Holladay Aviation instructors provided a total of 6,600 mostly mask-free hours of instruction, split almost evenly between flight and ground operations, to a floating roster of about 100 students. Despite all the stresses and challenges we’ve all faced, our staff and customers have remained very healthy overall, and for that we are extremely grateful.

What are we doing to stay healthy moving forward? The same things we’ve always done. We clean the office regularly, we wash our hands frequently, and we cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze. We grab a dab of hand sanitizer after we shake hands with someone. That’s all that needs to be done.

Please continue to follow our common sense Health and Safety guidelines which include:

  • Regular, thorough hand washing.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with something if you cough or sneeze.
  • Respecting your fellow pilots and staff members by staying home if you feel sick.
  • Taking care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and supplementing your diet as needed to maintain a healthy immune system.

We have never required anyone to wear a mask at Holladay Aviation, and we never will. If your personal tolerance for risk still leads you to believe that wearing a mask is the right thing for you, we respect your decision even if we don’t agree with it. In return we simply ask that you respect how we choose to conduct our business. Please don’t ask any of our staff members to wear a mask. We want everyone who walks through our doors to feel welcome and safe, and to see our smiling faces.

Thank you for your continued support throughout this very challenging year. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season, and a very Merry Christmas.

Meredith and Dana Holladay