April 8, 2020
One Sunday in late March, Cran Jones, co-owner of Pontiac-based flight school Michigan Seaplane, wondered how his connections to the auto industry and general aviation might address the growing need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for Michigan medical professionals managing the COVID-19 crisis.
Jones made a phone call to an engineer at Indiana-based Mursix Corp., an auto parts stamping company, and a few short hours later, he sent pictures of a prototype face shield to hospitals in the Detroit area to see if the design would meet their needs.
“Their answer was literally, ‘How many can you make, and how fast can you make them?’”
Jones, who knew the need for PPE was urgent, quickly arranged for some Michigan-based volunteer general aviation pilots to deliver the shields.
“Monday by noon, I had pilots lined up to help, just by word of mouth,” explained Jones. “These pilots volunteered their time and the use of their aircraft.”
The same Monday – the day after the engineer made the first prototype – volunteer pilots Nick Hall and Mike Mato in a Cessna 206 flew more than 200 face shields from Muncie, IN, to Oakland Southwest Airport near Detroit.
Several other volunteers continued to fly the face shields to Detroit, delivering over 75,000 units in a two-week time period.
Jones says he knows the face shields could be delivered by truck, but using general aviation aircraft cuts the trip from Indiana to the Detroit from about a day’s drive to around two hours.
“It feels good to help. Pilots love to fly, and if we fly and help someone at the same time, it’s a no-brainer,” said Jones, who added the medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients are “walking through fire” to help their communities.
Mursix can produce up to 60,000 face shields a day, but materials are running low. Jones and the volunteer pilots will continue flying face shields as long as production and the need continues.