The Air Force is training medical professionals to operate its Missouri-made Transport Isolation System (TIS) to safely transport patients with infectious diseases aboard military aircraft during the COVID-19 pandemic. TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize risk to aircrew, medical attendants, and the airframe, while allowing medical care to be provided to patients in-flight.
“While treatment of patients in place is always the preferred option, we anticipate there will likely be circumstances in which such care will not be available, and the best option will be to transport the patient to alternative facilities,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas, Deputy Commander of Air Mobility Command.
The system is manufactured in St. Louis, Missouri, and consists of one antechamber module and two isolation modules — for a total of two patients per unit — and can be secured on C-130H, C-130J, and C-17 aircraft. The antechamber module provides a space for medical personnel to safety decontaminate and remove personal protective equipment. A C-17 can hold two TIS units for a total of four patients.
Medical professionals from the Air Force’s School of Aerospace Medicine are training medics to operate the TIS. Medics learn how to properly put on personal protective equipment, follow waste management procedures, simulate in-flight patient care, and familiarize themselves with equipment and inventory, among other activities.
The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command conducted the first operational use of the TIS to perform an aeromedical evacuation of three U.S. government contractors who tested positive for coronavirus. They traveled in the TIS from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base. Upon arrival at Ramstein Air Base, the patients were transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for medical treatment.
“Right now, in the midst of this global pandemic, we have forces in harm’s way around the world,” said Col. Leslie Wood, Air Mobility Command en route Care Medical Director. “Because of the requirements of transporting personnel with infectious diseases like COVID-19, we can’t use our traditional methods of transport without risking the medical crew in the back of the plane, and the rest of the crew in the front. And, if we lose these crews, we lose operational capability.”