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Business Aviation Lends a Hand During COVID-19 Pandemic

The industry joins the battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Business aviation has always been at the forefront of relief efforts in times of need, helping citizens and communities meet difficult challenges. When the COVID-19 coronavirus struck, numerous business aviation organizations responded, offering their services in efforts to fight the pandemic. Here are a few of their inspiring stories.

Wheels Up Launches ‘Meals Up’

Wheels Up is helping feed those who have suffered job losses and other hardships during the COVID-19 crisis, launching a new initiative called “Meals Up.” The Part 135 operator is partnering with Feeding America, NFL player Russell Wilson and singer Ciara on the venture.

“Feeding America is one of the most effective organizations at getting food into the hands of people who need it most,” noted Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter. “They serve over 4 billion meals each year through food banks across the country.”

Dichter set a goal to collect 10 million meals via Meals Up. However, noting that 37 million Americans are food insecure daily, he said the effort will continue past the current crisis.

“We’re already working with our Wheels Up ambassadors Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, Serena Williams, J.J. Watt, Joey Logano, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez, as well as my good friends and partners Tim Armstrong, Joe Poulin and my lead Wheels Up director David Adelman, who are supporting and helping us mobilize our Wheels Up network.”

Colorado Aviation Business Association Organizes Airlift

The Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA) is adapting the concept of its annual Christmas Holiday Charity Drive and VFW Airlift, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars and volunteer pilots, to transport medical equipment, doctors and COVID-19 test kits.

The Colorado Aviation Business Association is replicating its annual holiday airlift to deliver medical personnel, equipment and supplies to fight the pandemic.

“We are building upon the existing holiday airlift model, changing it to respond to the needs of the current crisis,” said CABA’s Chair Chris Swathwood. Instead of delivering food, toys and hygiene items, CABA and its volunteer pilots are ready to deliver medical equipment.

In Colorado, ski resorts have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. Many towns are in remote locations, often most quickly and easily accessed by GA aircraft.

Universal Weather Waives Fees for Humanitarian Medical Supply Missions

Universal Weather and Aviation is donating its flight planning services for humanitarian medical supply missions during the COVID-19 crisis, waiving its fees for mission-feasibility assessments and consultation services for any humanitarian medical supply flight, as well as for direct ground handling setup.

Universal Trip Support is working to route humanitarian flights safely through ever-changing domestic and international restrictions and local quarantines imposed as a result of the pandemic.

“We are in an unprecedented and trying time for our industry and the world,” said Universal Chairman Greg Evans. “Business aviation missions are still flying and are now more critical than ever as we battle the global pandemic.”

Many Companies Producing Protective Gear

Billings Flying Service, a family-owned helicopter operator in Montana, has reprogrammed its 3-D printers to produce protective face masks for local medical personnel.

Company engineers Peter Yegen and Mikale Lynch devised the idea of 3-D printed masks for healthcare professionals after reading a local newspaper article about a local dentist and his son who developed a prototype 3-D printed mask. Yegen and Lynch modified that design, enabling Billing Flying Service to produce masks using their printers.

Yegen said, “We aren’t anywhere close to mass production, but it’s a chance for us to help out our community.”

Meanwhile, Duncan Aviation – the Lincoln, NE-based MRO – is utilizing its interior design and manufacturing skills to fabricate protective face masks for hospitals.

Piper Aircraft workers are producing face shields for use by medical personnel at Florida's Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital.

Montana's Billings Flying Service is using its 3-D printers to produce protective face masks for healthcare professionals.

Interior Shop Automations Team Leader Nicholas Graham reached out to Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln and asked for help in designing a mask for Duncan employees, explained Communications Manager Lori Johnson. “He also asked what we could do to support hospitals during this time of need.”

With a design in hand, Duncan Interior Assistant Manager Curt Eliker and Upholstery Team Leader Kathy Wills acquired fabric from a local outlet of a national crafts chain. Then Wills created patterns for two mask designs and digitized them for cutting. The masks were sewn together by Duncan’s upholstery teams. Duncan also cut more than 1,000 additional masks, which local women sewed together for area hospitals.

Said Johnson, “This is indicative of the creativity, compassion and initiative found in our team members. We all feel it is the least we can do during this uncertain time.”

Among the numerous other aviation companies producing protective gear is Piper Aircraft, which is making face shields for Florida’s Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital. Piper designed a prototype face shield, and the company is now capable of producing more than 1,000 units per day.

“This is a critical time for our community, our country and the world. It is a time for action, cooperation and collaboration,” said James Funk, Piper’s COO. “Therefore, it’s vital that we all pull together to help our community, weather this crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever.”

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