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Head of Sales VIP & Special Mission Aircraft
Lufthansa Technik AG
SARS, avian flu or ebola – epidemics regularly threaten human lives. A unique kind of aircraft is necessary to transport and treat such highly infectious patients just as safely as on the ground. We have proven that we are capable of transforming a normal airliner into an evacuation aircraft for a very special mission.
At the height of the ebola epidemic, we were commissioned by Germany's Federal Foreign Office to convert an Airbus A340 into an evacuation aircraft for transporting and treating highly contagious patients. There was no existing solution for the conversion of such an airplane. Unlike smaller aircraft that have been sporadically available till then, the new plane provided the required capacity for a comprehensive intensive care unit on board. For the construction and installation of the special isolation unit in the cabin, we were able to draw on our wealth of experience in installing a diverse range of non-standard aircraft interiors.
In the middle and rear section of the airplane, passenger seats, galleys and luggage bins were removed to make room for a patient transport isolation unit surrounded by an airtight tent with negative pressure. Inside the tent, medical personnel could provide patients with intensive care and treatment during the flight while remaining fully protected. Two exterior tents, also airtight, served as buffers so that the treatment tent could be entered and exited safely. Disinfection procedures ensured absolute hygiene, and waste management was also taken into account. At the front of the cabin, there were seats for up to 19 passengers such as doctors, scientific staff from the Robert Koch Institute, isolation tent technicians and one of our engineers.
One particular problem was to ensure that the aircraft would not be contaminated in the event of a sudden pressure loss. For this purpose, flaps were integrated into the structure of the rear tent, which would open and safely collect the air, which would increase involume threefold in such a case in a 100 cubic meter air bag. Many more specific requirements had to be met, such as electrical connections for the intensive care systems, separate ventilation systems for the air inside and outside the tent, the disinfection system and last but not least, a special system for communication between the aircraft crew and the medical staff in the isolation unit.