Aerospace Industry Responds to COVID-19
By Dan Dumbacher|July/August 2020
The past few months have tested our will in ways most of us could never have imagined. These challenges have affected our personal lives, our economic stability, the health of our loved ones, and the very fabric of the world that we know. Our industry has certainly faced both tragedies and complex challenges in the past, but without a doubt, nothing has ever looked like this. Right now, it is hard to even imagine exactly what normal will look like in the years to come. However, in challenging times we often see ourselves more clearly. What has always motivated me about our work is that at its very core, our industry solves big problems, our people take on grand challenges. We analyze, debate, plan, test, and repeat — creating innovation cycles that tackle head-on the profound difficulty of creating spacecraft that can escape the bounds of Earth, aircraft that travel at hypersonic speeds, and technology that can reimagine our world. While this is where we choose to apply our skills, I believe there is even more that we can do. Leaders lead. Engineers solve.
I have been overwhelmed and incredibly proud of the companies and organizations that have stepped up to apply their human ingenuity, caring, and resources to create human-centered solutions for the public health crisis of our time. In this issue’s Flight Path, I want to share some of these powerful examples. From the onset of the crisis, Lockheed Martin has led with compassion on a global scale — providing more than $18 million in charitable relief, producing more than 61,000 protective gowns and 30,000 face shields, and donating personal protective equipment (PPE) at more than 125 locations where frontline medical workers are caring for COVID-19 patients and those at risk, including medically vulnerable seniors. Additionally, they have invested in the essential ecosystem of our industry, providing more than $400 million in accelerated supply chain payments to support the needs of smaller businesses disrupted during this unprecedented time. Likewise, Boeing has devoted significant assets to respond to COVID-19. In April, Boeing completed a historic transport mission, using a Boeing Dreamlifter aircraft, to bring more than 1.5 million medical-grade face masks from Hong Kong to healthcare professionals in South Carolina. Raytheon Technologies has led a tremendous global response, donating more than 50 million meals to Feeding America to address the emerging threat of food insecurity. Additionally, they have donated 1.2 million PPE items to frontline healthcare professionals and first responders globally, and more than 500,000 component parts to ventilator manufacturers. These are big companies responding to the call of duty on a massive scale.
It has not only been the large corporations that have stepped up to the plate during the crisis. Additive manufacturing company Made in Space (MIS) has leveraged their innovative thinking and unique assets to help local communities in Florida and California. In their “on-planet-Earth” facilities, they have reconfigured 3D printers to help in the fight against COVID-19, providing frontline healthcare workers with much-needed supplies and equipment. Their 3D-printed face shields are being distributed directly to local hospitals to augment the shortage of critical PPE supplies. Additionally, MIS engineers have developed a rapid response ventilator adapter to enable a single ventilator to safely support multiple patients in extreme situations.
Finally, in an amazing innovation story, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) devoted teams of engineers to design a solution custom built for the COVID-19 crisis in record time. The JPL teams designed a right-sized ventilator system, called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), that in a matter of weeks received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The ventilator uses a fraction of the parts of a traditional ventilator and is both low cost and can be easily deployed in field hospitals. I cannot think of a more fitting example of how our community’s brilliant minds have applied their talent and shown their humanity during this crisis.
On behalf of AIAA, I want to thank and celebrate these amazing organizations — and the many others not mentioned in this article. These organizations have looked beyond their own personal challenges in this unprecedented time and sought ways they could help others. Our industry continues to face significant challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; applying our innovation, community focus, and commitment to addressing global challenges head-on will be essential to our success in the post-COVID world. As we have seen time and again, history favors the bold. And bold is who we are.
AIAA Executive Director
Our industry continues to face significant challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; applying our innovation, community focus, and commitment to addressing global challenges head-on will be essential to our success in the post-COVID world. As we have seen time and again, history favors the bold. And bold is who we are.Dan Dumbacher