The business aviation sector contributing its unique resources to the greater good
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an enormous challenge to many industries – particularly those that rely on people’s ability to travel. But it is also highlighting the best that some of the most heavily impacted sectors can offer in times of global crisis.
The business aviation industry is no exception.
As this health emergency continues to spread throughout the world, business jet operators and manufacturers have risen to the challenge by applying their unique skills and equipment to help save lives.
From building ventilator parts and making personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline, to flying doctors and vital medical supplies to where they are needed most, the business aviation sector – which Viasat is proud to be a part of and to support – is doing some incredible things. Here are just some examples of how this industry is flying the extra nautical mile to fight back against this destructive disease.
While many are familiar with the vitally important work of Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), there is also a less well-known organization called Aviation Sans Frontières (ASF). This French NGO has been flying emergency humanitarian aid around the world since its inception in 1980. It has focused its efforts in recent weeks on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by deploying small aircraft to rapidly transport healthcare workers and emergency resuscitation equipment throughout Europe, free of charge.
On April 7, business jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation provided two Falcon aircraft – more commonly associated with transporting high net-worth individuals and celebrities around the world – to ASF for use as a weapon against the pandemic.
The jet carried medical personnel from Marseille in France to Mulhouse near the Swiss border, enabling them to reach their destination eight times faster than if they had traveled by road. It marked the first mission by a Falcon jet since Dassault agreed to participate in a system set up by ASF to help Europe’s healthcare sector fight back against the virus.
In another example of how private jets are being used for alternative purposes while global travel restrictions and social distancing measures limit their ability to conduct regular operations, business aviation charter company VistaJet is offering complimentary empty-leg flights to governments and organizations to help repatriate stranded citizens and transport medical experts to locations where they are urgently needed to treat COVID-19 patients.
VistaJet says it has been “inspired by the incredible gesture of humanity seen around the world,” and is “in talks with governments, medical communities and health experts to identify solutions to help.”
Similarly, according to a report by Aviation International News, fractional ownership specialist NetJets last month deployed two of its Bombardier Global 6000s on a mission to collect medical equipment - including N95 surgical masks from Nanjing in China - and deliver it to Mount Sinai hospital in New York – the city with the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
It is not just above-and-beyond flight missions that the business aviation sector has been helping out with during the pandemic. Manufacturers that normally roll shiny new private jets off their assembly lines have been using their expertise and production facilities to make parts for the ventilators hospitals need to help COVID-19 patients breathe.
Brazilian business aircraft manufacturer Embraer announced in March that it was working in partnership with companies and research centers to increase the availability of equipment and solutions to combat COVID-19 in Brazil.
Embraer has agreed to manufacture parts for the ventilator and respirator industry. It is also working with Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo to develop biological air filter systems, which are needed to convert regular hospital beds into intensive care beds.
“The global healthcare system is facing an unprecedented scenario, and Embraer plans to apply its capacity during this moment of global collaboration and demand for effective and short-term solutions,” Embraer said in a statement.
Also applying its manufacturing skills to the greater good in the fight against coronavirus is Textron Aviation, which makes the Beechcraft and Cessna business aircraft models. Textron is producing the plastic face shields and cloth masks that are so vital for protecting healthcare professionals when they are treating COVID-19 patients.
Private jet manufacturers have also stepped up their philanthropic efforts during the pandemic. Gulfstream Aerospace, for instance, has donated roughly $100,000 to local nonprofit organizations to provide them with the resources they need to help residents affected by the virus.
In Savannah, Georgia, where Gulfstream is headquartered, the company has contributed $25,000 to The United Way of the Coastal Empire, which supports local communities in the areas of education, financial stability and health. The manufacturer has also pumped $10,000 into the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.
In addition to making its own donations to local food banks, Gulfstream is encouraging its employees to contribute to nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army and Feeding America. Meanwhile, the Corporate Angel Network has continued to arrange travel for cancer patients by finding them empty seats on business jets.
The business aviation sector is also helping out in some more unexpected ways. GlobeAir, which provides very light jet (VLJ) private charter services throughout Europe, has been operating “solo pet flights” to unite pet owners with their animals. The company says such flights have increased during the pandemic, and it has been helping families who are “looking forward to welcoming their new puppies at home, regardless of the crisis” and ensuring they can “spend their lockdown months together with their four-legged friends.”
Viasat is proud to help business aviation manufacturers and operators keep their passengers and crews connected, in good times and in these more challenging times, through our high-speed, high-capacity business jet in-flight Wi-Fi system. This pride has grown as we’ve watched the sector put aside concerns about the very real challenges it faces as a result of COVID-19, and use its unique resources to assist where it can.
James Person is director of Business Development and Strategy for Viasat’s Business Aviation division