This paper discusses the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reconsider the foundations of the global aviation system. There is much evidence that air transport creates opportunities as well as risks. While the former accrue to businesses and individuals, risks are imposed on society. Pandemics, in which aviation has a role as a vector of pathogen distribution, as well as the sector's contribution to climate change are examples of long-standing negative externalities that continue to be ignored in assessments of aviation's economic performance and societal importance. As commercial aviation has shown limited economic resilience throughout its history, this short paper questions whether a return to business-as-usual, supported by very significant State aid payments, is desirable. The volume growth model championed by industry and aviation proponents may have to be replaced with an alternative model of a slimmed air transport system that is economically less vulnerable and accounting for its environmental impacts.