Business aviation companies are transporting patients and medical supplies to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that alongside national aviation authorities it is handling a substantial increase in requests for advice or approval for the special uses of aircraft due to the COVID-19 situation. These requests are being handled as high priority and free of charge.
EASA said it is receiving requests about the aeromedical transport of COVID-19 patients using specialized equipment on helicopters and airplanes, such as air-transportable isolators. These may pose technical and safety-related challenges and their installation on aircraft may require expertise evaluation.
In addition, helicopters and airplanes that are being used to transport urgently required goods as well as specialized equipment, medical supplies and goods may need to be packed in special bags or containers.
Meanwhile, broker firm Chapman Freeborn said it has experienced a surge in charter requests for humanitarian cargo and medical supplies such as N95 masks from China into Europe and Africa.
China is the world’s largest producer of medical face masks, with over 100 million manufactured per day. N95 masks filter a minimum of 95% of particulates and are they type of masks specified by authorities in the USA for use by healthcare workers.
Pierre Vanders, Chapman Freeborn’s cargo director said, “We are all extremely busy with requests for urgent cargo leaving China. Not only our European and African offices but our offices in North America also.
“The biggest issue that we’re facing is capacity – there is a real shortage. However, we’ve managed to fix a number of immediate flights using cancellations due to transit delays within China.”
Three day backlog
German air ambulance and special mission operator FAI rent-a-jet AG said it has been “working around the clock” following unprecedented demand from the spread of coronavirus, operating both medical evacuations of infected patients and repatriation flights.
FAI, which is based at Albrecht Dürer International Airport in Nuremberg is supplementing its 10-strong air ambulance fleet with its executive charter fleet of business jets. The company has recently purchased two EPI-Shuttle portable self-contained isolation units to transport infected patients without any risk for the flight or medical crew.
Siegfried Axtmann, chairman and founder of FAI Aviation Group said, “We are working hard to fulfil all requests coming in for repatriation and medevac flights as rapidly as we can and will continue to do so as long as is practically possible.
“We deeply regret that we can’t help everybody immediately. The demand is such that we currently have a backlog of three days.“
Axtmann added that the biggest challenge remains scheduling given the entry restrictions now in place in many countries around the world, many of which are not allowing entry for crew rest and pre-positioning.
Empty legs donation
Charter operator Vistajet is working with governments and consulates to repatriate citizens by providing complimentary empty leg flights and assisting with the logistics of the necessary permits and paperwork.
The company is also in talks with medical organizations, health experts and regulators to help transport key medical supplies. Additionally, empty leg flights are being offered complimentary for critical flights to transport medical experts.
Thomas Flohr, VistaJet’s founder and chairman said, “This is an unusual time and one that we must all work together where possible to do whatever we can to help. We know we don’t normally offer repatriation flights or the transportation of medical equipment, but ultimately, we are a logistics company and we are here to help the global community as much as we can. We are in this fight together.”
The Company has created a web page to channel all requests from governments and medical organizations to ensure prioritization, address the most critical cases and manage the relevant safety screening.
Guidance on cleaning and health:
EASA guidance on Aircraft Cleaning and Disinfection in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemics can be found here and on managing the risks to crew here.
NBAA guidance on cleaning and disinfection of aircraft can be found here and on managing the risks to crew here.