May 20, 2020

An innovative partnership between volunteer pilot organization Angel Flight East and a Pennsylvania-based manufacturing initiative has supplied badly-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to dozens of medical facilities throughout the Northeast.

Formed earlier this year by four engineering graduates from the University of Pennsylvania, Project SHIELDS utilizes 3D printers to produce and assemble approximately 3,500 face shields per day. While the group initially focused on supporting the University of Pennsylvania Health System and other Philadelphia healthcare workers, Project SHIELDS soon expanded to produce face shields for facilities across 30 states.

With so many medical facilities needing equipment, however, the project’s financial resources for transportation soon dwindled. A LinkedIn post brought that need to the attention of Jess Ames, outreach and events director for Angel Flight East.

“Our first flight transported 1,000 face shields to Toledo, OH,” she said. “From there, Project SHIELDS suggested to us they really needed a way to send their shields to underserved areas lacking access to many supplies available to major hospitals.”

Soon the group’s volunteer pilots, flying aircraft ranging from Cessna 182s and Cirrus SR22s to Piper Senecas, were ferrying the masks across the Northeast. “To date we’ve delivered some 5,000 masks for Project SHIELDS,” said Madeline Beck, Angel Flight East’s flight coordinator.

In addition to performing flights on behalf of Project SHIELDS, the group’s volunteer pilots have also transported hand sanitizer produced by Kiki Vodka Company and face shields manufactured by Mursix in Indiana, as well as other PPE on behalf of the Virginia Rural Health Association.

“We stopped flying our typical patient transport flights in late March as hospitals suspended non-emergency procedures,” Ames said. “We stopped those missions on a Thursday, and that Saturday morning I received a phone call from one of our volunteer pilots asking why we weren’t already flying PPE. We’ve kept going and adding on to that ever since.”

Learn more about Angel Flight East.