May 12, 2020

A coalition of aerospace manufacturers and universities in Wichita, KS, is working together to develop and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical gear in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Ad Astra Coalition is led by Airbus Americas Engineering, Spirit AeroSystems, Textron Aviation, Wichita State University and WSU Tech

Spirit AeroSystems transferred existing 3-D printing capabilities to manufacture its first face shields, but later partnered with Textron to use injection molding, allowing for mass production of the face shields. By late April, the coalition delivered 8,000 face shields to the Ascension Via Christi healthcare network.

The group is also manufacturing disposable stethoscopes through a 3-D printing process.

The coalition is working closely with the Wichita medical community and WSU’s School of Health Professions, said Rob Gerlach, WSU’s director of intellectual property and technology transfer.

“It’s been just amazing how they can provide the feedback and the engineers can go tweak things, give it back to them, iterate real quickly and within a couple of iterations, we’ve got a final design that really works for first responders,” said Gerlach.

Each face shield and piece of medical equipment distributed to medical facilities represents safer care for patients and irreplaceable peace of mind for a healthcare worker.

“You’re seeing the community come together in really unique ways to try to help through this crisis,” added Gerlach. “It’s truly a community effort from all different parts.”

The Ad Astra Coalition is just one aviation organization around the country producing PPE and working in other ways to help their communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.