Ebola Airlift Boxes

By early January, the Air Force will have a brand-new capability to transport numbers of people exposed to the Ebola virus, or other highly contagious communicable diseases, US Transportation Command chief Gen. Paul Selva told reporters Thursday in Washington, D.C. Until now, “we have (had) a capacity to isolate a single person,” on a special commercial aircraft, he said, but on Wednesday, fit and flight testing began of a new roll-on/roll-off module that can transport two infected people at a time, isolated from the airplane’s air supply and other passengers or cargo. A C-17 can carry up to four of the modules while a C-130 can accommodate one. Selva launched the requirement in early October as an urgent operational need. “If we’re going to put people in harm’s way,” he explained—acknowledging the some 2,000 service members deployed to West Africa to help with the Ebola outbreak—“the capacity to move a single patient at a time was insufficient.” It would be a “policy decision” as to whether to transport civilians using the new modules, but “our obligation at TRANSCOM is to be ready to transport military personnel.” The cost is in “the tens of millions” of dollars for development and procurement of about a dozen modules, he said, and partner countries that also operate C-17s and C-130s “have expressed an interest in the capability.” The modules were developed in cooperation with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, Selva noted. Production Products, Inc., of St. Louis, which makes chem-bio gear and other military items, produced the prototype module, he said.