That’s the title of a very interesting article in Popular Mechanics. It’s a long article with a lot of detail, far too much to include here; but I’ll post a series of short excerpts to give you an idea.
… two humanitarian medical workers helping out with the Ebola crisis in Liberia had come down with it. Their names were Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, and while everyone wanted to get them home, they had no idea how to do so safely. “The general dogma was, you don’t bring the zombie apocalypse to a city that doesn’t have zombies,” Walters says. But Walters had remembered what Dent had told him … which was that as a joint consequence of ferrying Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control luminaries around and being down for just about anything, Phoenix Air had developed a proprietary system for the transport of extremely sick people with extremely contagious diseases.
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To build the Aeromedical Biological Containment System (ABCS), Phoenix Air had employed CDC and Department of Defense engineers who handled samples of the most threatening diseases and chemicals on earth.
The ABCS consists of a frame of metal tubing contoured to fit inside an airplane’s fuselage, supporting a disposable plastic cocoon—a giant zippered sock made out of what looks like a double-thick shower-curtain liner. Everything inside the sock is disposable, including a stretcher, a bucket toilet, medical supplies, and leads for health monitors that can be operated by the medical crew from outside.
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William Walters drew up a contract that made Phoenix Air an official provider for the U.S. Department of State, which would make all the life-and-death decisions itself. Walters wanted to do this anyway—Phoenix Air was the only company in the world equipped to transport extremely infectious patients. BP, ExxonMobil, and the Chinese government, all of which had extensive infrastructure in Africa, were circling in an effort to nail them down for themselves.
In the end, Phoenix Air flew about 40 people who had, or who had been exposed to, Ebola from West Africa to treatment centers in the U.S. and Europe. Only two patients died, neither of them aboard the plane.
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In 2014, Paul Allen, of Microsoft fame, decided he wanted to put some of his fortune to use combating Ebola. He asked the Department of State what he could do to help, which is how he, together with Phoenix Air and a research company called MRI Global, came to build the Containerized Biocontainment System (CBCS).
If the ABCS is a rubber raincoat, the CBCS is a submarine, down to 400-pound airtight doors that separate the clean, gray, and biohazard sections. The size of a semi-truck trailer, it has its own power and medical oxygen, and can be loaded onto a Boeing B-747/400 and shipped out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport within 24 hours. The CBCS solves a major problem Phoenix Air faced during the 2014 epidemic, which was that they could only pick up one patient at a time, every three days, potentially dooming anyone left behind to wait for a later flight. The CBCS can transport four extremely sick, extremely contagious people, along with six medical staff, simultaneously.
There’s more at the link, including photographs. Recommended reading.
Considering the current status of the Ebola epidemic in Congo, and how it appears to be spreading, I presume Phoenix Air is dusting off its equipment and getting ready to do it all over again. It must be a horribly expensive flight, though. The ABCS is destroyed after use, so there’s that write-off; and then there’s the hourly cost of an executive jet, plus its crew, plus the medical staff, and everyone else concerned. I doubt whether regular medical insurance would cover the expense. I guess it’ll only be deployed if Uncle Sam is paying for it, with our tax dollars. However, I’d much rather my taxes were spent on that than on some of the more wasteful and disgraceful pork barrels out there . . .