Daher, Pipistrel, and Tecnam are the latest general aviation manufacturers joining the worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic by filling the need for transporting or making personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital workers on the front lines of the pandemic, and breathing apparatus to help save the lives of COVID-19 patients.
Aircraft companies have dedicated portions of their workforce to relief efforts as infection rates and worldwide deaths continue to mount.
Pipistrel, a Slovenia-based light aircraft manufacturer known for the single-engine Alpha Trainer and Alpha Electro models of composite light sport aircraft, gliders, and other aircraft, secured a donation of 100,000 medical face masks, additional medical supplies, and coronavirus test kits bound for Ajdovscina in the country’s Vipava Valley. The medical supplies were transported from China to Europe through a business connection made by Pipistrel’s Asia-Pacific subsidiary. The equipment was being distributed to the “most exposed groups” in the region, a news release noted.
Italy-based Tecnam, which has manufactured aircraft since 1948, began producing PPE for medical workers on an assembly line that was running “in parallel” with airplane manufacturing. The company said in a news release that the research-and-development department “channeled all its commitment and aeronautical design know-how into creating an innovative face shield with a multipurpose solution to protect the eyes and airways” of health care personnel.
The design for the clear plastic Tecnam Face Shield forces ventilation rearward while protecting personnel against the hazards of inhaling biological droplets. The reusable and ergonomic face shield can accommodate eyeglasses and a surgical mask. A version of the device that can be equipped with air filters is also under development.
“Protecting our first responders and healthcare workers has never been more important,” said Tecnam Managing Director Giovanni Pascale. He added that the company “marshalled the best resources” to focus on “supporting those most in need on the frontline of this pandemic.” He also expressed a desire for the “quick return to flight activities for our pilots, passengers, and flight-training organizations.”
French drone maker Parrot is lending a hand to a lifesaving ventilator project for COVID-19 patients. The unmanned aviation systems manufacturer joined forces with others supporting the French medical profession by contributing motor designs to the MakAir open-source respirator project. The company announced April 17 that it offered “500 engines that perfectly meet these criteria, for the launch of the MakAir project, which is both ambitious, simple, and modular.”
Boeing Co. flew a Dreamlifter—a converted Boeing 747-400 cargo freighter—from Hong Kong to the United States loaded with 1.5 million medical-grade face masks bound for health care professionals in South Carolina.
The jet manufacturer partnered with Prisma Health medical personnel; transport specialists Atlas Air Worldwide, which operated the April 26 flights; and design firm Discommon for the PPE mission. Following the health care delivery, the Dreamlifter returned to Boeing’s North Charleston, South Carolina, manufacturing plant to dispense 787 Dreamliner parts. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he owed “a debt of gratitude” to the three businesses for the delivery.