The Brazilian Air Force cannot stop. But the safety of its pilots and mechanics is a priority in the context of COVID-19.
By João Paulo Moralez
A new procedure was included in the operational routine of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). Before, during and after each flight performed by their aircraft, a specialized team performs internal disinfection in order to mitigate the risks of contamination by COVID-19.
“The planes have a kit with individual protection masks for passengers who may not have yours. In addition, we have flannel, alcohol, glove and disposable apron. They are mandatory items for security. We clean the seats, sides, roof, cockpit and other areas subject to human contact. In a C-98 Caravan aircraft this process takes around 15 minutes and is also done during stopovers during the mission. Attention is maximum.
In transport planes, cargo is sanitized at the time of boarding. In larger models such as the C-105 Amazonas, C-130 Hercules and KC-390, the aircraft is divided into areas for flights with patients. In the hot area are the medical staff and patients who are infected. In the warm, transitional area, the rest of the flight mechanics and loadmaster crew is. And in the cockpit, the neutral area, the pilots and crew,” said Lieutenant Jeciane Ribeiro, from the 1st /15th GAv Onça Squadron.
For each area there are specific protective suits, which are worn throughout the mission.
In the aircraft, social distance is respected, with a decrease in the capacity to transport people to increase safety.
The Portable Intensive Care Unit, or “bubble stretcher” as it is popularly called, allows the safe transport of patients with chemical, radiological, bacteriological or contamination.
Through it, it is possible to conduct medical procedures, install monitoring and life support devices, such as defibrillators, medication infusion pumps and others, without posing a risk to the crew or medical staff.
During the Tapio Operational Exercise, the stretcher was installed on a UH-60 Black Hawk, which can transport up to two patients in these conditions, in addition to two health professionals, two pilots and two mechanics. Everyone on board wear special clothing to avoid being contaminated.
Upon arriving at the destination site, the patient is transferred to another isolation stretcher, and the FAB stretcher returns to the squad headquarters and is disinfected by the air unit personnel.
Under the FAB’s biosafety plan, all military personnel involved in the Tapio Operational Exercise underwent tests to detect COVID-19 before, during and at the end of the exercise.
The Transit Hotel of Officers of Wing 5, in Campo Grande, was transformed into an isolation area to receive military personnel suspected of contamination, in addition to expanding its hospital structure to six beds to provide respiratory support to infected patients, if applicable.
There was also the development of a system for monitoring and tracking the military throughout the base structure. Through the use of QR Code per application, the entire staff of the exercise checked in each environment where it passed, such as briefing rooms, planning, auditorium, cafeteria, accommodation, among others. That way, if a military man was infected, it would be possible to determine who were the people with whom he had contact.
At the beginning of the operation, of the five suspected cases, three were confirmed by the sanitary barrier and were removed and isolated for prompt recovery.