JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida aircraft manufacturing company that’s been in the aviation industry for more than 80 years has joined the fight against the coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. So aircraft engineers at Piper Aircraft are now helping nurses and doctors in Florida and Ohio by designing and mass-producing face shields that prevent the transmission of the virus from infected patients.
This all started when a senior executive at Piper Aircraft went to the company’s CEO and asked what they could do to help nurses and doctors who are on the frontline of the battle. The CEO then spoke with engineers who later came up with an idea to build plastic face shields.
“It’s a thin piece of plastic that goes from your forehead to just below your chin line. It wraps around so that your eyes are protected, as well as your nose and mouth. There’s a piece of foam to keep it comfortable on your forehead and a piece of elastic that runs around the back of your head to keep it in place," said Piper Aircraft Marketing Director Jacqueline Carlon.
The shields are not complex from a design standpoint, Carlon said, “but certainly effective from a medical standpoint.”
They’re effective because the shielding prevents the virus from being inhaled or ingested and allows enough protection to prevent respiratory droplets from getting into the eyes when an infected person sneezes or coughs. In the beginning, the plastic that was first used to make the shields come from leftover materials used in the aircraft manufacturing process. Then, when the leftover materials ran out, the company began purchasing plastic from its vendors to make more masks. Engineers are now able to mass produce the shields at an alarming rate so that they can be distributed to hospitals that request help.
“We were able to optimize it to the point where we can actually make just under 2,000 daily," Carlon said.
So far, the Cleveland Clinic Health System, which operates hospitals throughout Ohio and South Florida, have been ordering the masks. But Piper Aircraft engineers believe other hospitals, including the ones in Jacksonville, will soon request these face shields.