Airlines, airports, and government watchdogs have joined forces to turn larger aircraft into intensive care units amid the global pandemic, a UK-based group with a hand on the idea revealed Monday.
Called Caircraft, the group said it would refit wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus A380s and A340s with ICU beds and equipment over the next seven to 10 days after said the fleet type was barred by coronavirus travel restrictions.
The airline and airport operators which have agreed to the plan were not identified but Reuters said they were believed to be British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, among others.
The group said up to 150 beds could fit on each aircraft depending on the size of the jet. It is now awaiting funding support and coordination from the government.
“We’ve had various conversations at various levels. And we absolutely appreciate how busy they are with everything else going on,” aviation economist Chris Tarry was quoted as saying in a report by Reuters.
“It’s a question of reaching the right desks at the right time,” he added.
Tarry said he partnered with entrepreneur Nick Dyne, Jonathan Sackier, Visiting Professor of Surgery at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences to execute the plan.
Dyne said that apart from the UK, the group was also in talks with Malaysia, Canada, Germany, and the United States to pursue the same plan.
Under Caircraft’s plans which the group has been working on for a week, the aircraft would first fly to the place where they were to be needed, before being fitted out.
The aircraft would not move once treating patients.
“What we don’t want to do is to be a flying hospital,” Dyne said.
“The regulatory issues regarding that are just too great,” he added.
Caircraft said that among the advantages of using aeroplanes as intensive care wards were not only their mobility but also that there are plenty of A380 and A340 available.
Caircraft said aeroplanes are also filtered and have one-way airflow systems that mirror those of operating theatres.
The group said the advantage of using planes is that not only are they mobile and there are plenty of them now available, but also that their filtered, one-way airflow systems mirror those of an operating theatre.
Dyne declined to comment on how much it would cost to convert each aircraft.