As an increasing number of countries impose lockdowns in efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19, Airbus is leveraging its global resources to support those currently impacted by the coronavirus – and to prevent others from being infected.
Many initiatives to help tackle the impact of COVID-19 involve Airbus-built aircraft, while company employees are working on developing sustainable solutions to support governments worldwide – including the production of critical medical equipment.
Notably, Airbus has joined industrial, technology and engineering businesses across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors in responding to the UK government’s call for help in producing additional medical ventilators. The country has ordered a total of 10,000 ventilators, to be produced by a consortium of companies that also includes Rolls-Royce and Ford.
Airbus is using its own aircraft and crews in transporting millions of face masks for donation to hospitals and public services around Europe.
By deploying Airbus-owned aircraft and its crews, the company is flying millions of masks into Europe for use by health personnel and caregivers, along with thermometers, from suppliers in China.
This began earlier in the month with the transportation of approximately 2.5 million face masks aboard a flight test A330-800 from Tianjin to Airbus’ headquarters location in Toulouse, France. An A400M transporter then flew to Toulouse to pick up hundreds of thousands of these masks for transfer to Getafe, Spain. 70% of the masks were donated to the French and Spanish governments, while the rest are being distributed to Airbus teams in France and Spain.
Days later, Airbus deployed another air-bridge flight between China and Europe to deliver more than four million face masks to hospitals and public services across France, Germany, Spain and the UK. This mission utilised an Airbus A330-200 that is being converted to a A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) for a military operator.
Supporting French missions
Airbus customers on the frontlines include the French Air Force, which has been transporting patients between medical facilities using one of its A330 Phénix MRTTs to relieve the workload on inner city hospitals, particularly in northeastern France – where a high number of COVID-19 cases are concentrated. Sophisticated medevac (medical evacuation) equipment and systems are incorporated on the A330 MRTT, including the Morphée intensive care module that accommodates up to 10 patients.
NH90 helicopters were used by the French Army to evacuate 10 COVID-19 patients from France’s Grand Est region to areas in France, Germany and Switzerland that have been less affected by the outbreak.
The French Ministry of Interior has a fleet of 34 helicopters from the H145 family that can transport two patients at a time over longer-distance trips, such as between the cities of Mulhouse and Strasbourg or Nancy in the country’s northeast. This takes some of the operational pressure off the ambulance inventories of France’s SAMU municipal emergency services.
A helping hand for Germany
In Germany, ADAC Luftrettung, the air rescue division of the country’s biggest automobile association, uses its fleet of more than 50 H135 and H145 air ambulances to support the country’s emergency services.
Two of ADAC’s helicopters – designated Christoph 77 and Christoph 66 – were used to transfer patients from a hospital in Metz, France, to the University Hospital in Homburg, Germany as part of a cross-border cooperation initiative.
Medevac flights have been performed by A400M airlifters in service with the German, Spanish and UK air forces.
The German military used an A400M to move French patients from Strasbourg to Ulm – reflecting European solidarity in the face of crisis, while one of the service’s A310s transported Italian patients from Bergamo to Cologne.
The Spanish Air Force deployed an A400M to evacuate a coronavirus patient who was part of a Navy team on its way to join the European Union’s mission to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean. All 22 people who had contact with this patient also were evacuated from Djibouti to Spain.
The UK’s Royal Air Force flew one of its A400Ms with a critically ill patient from the Shetlands Islands off the coast of Scotland – where there is a serious outbreak of COVID-19 and limited health facilities – to intensive care in Aberdeen.
Another supply flight was completed early this week, with a Spanish Air Force A400M delivering medical materiel from China to Spain – landing at the Zaragoza Air Base.
The Spanish armed forces, along with its Civil Guard law enforcement agency and other emergency services in Spain, are keeping their Super Puma helicopters on permanent alert to transfer patients and support the nation’s response to the crisis. Additionally, Airbus’ in-service support is playing a key role in Operation Balmis, which is providing operational, health, logistics and infrastructure support across Spain, including the deployment of nearly 3,000 soldiers in 28 cities.
In another deployment, the Spanish Air Force used two of its Airbus-built C295 tactical transport aircraft in the delivery of medical supplies to the Canary Islands.