Tecnam, an Italian aeronautics company that produces aircraft parts for other manufacturers and also develops it own light aircraft, has engineered a small plane with the purpose of transporting the COVID-19 vaccine by air.
The COVID-19 vaccine has to be stored and transported at seriously cold temperature, about -70°C ±10°C, according to Pfizer. Once they’ve been thawed, vaccines can be stored at 2-8°C for five days before they go bad. Maintaining those frigid temperatures has been one of the many challenges of rolling out the vaccine to the public, so Tecnam teamed up with Italian freezer manufacturer Desmon to find a solution to the problem.
Together, they’ve added a refrigeration system to Tecnam’s 11-seat P2012 mini-airliner that contains the specialised equipment necessary for vaccine transportation. The passenger seats have been removed to create a cargo version that features what it’s calling an ‘ultra-freezer.’ With it, the Tecnam — named the P2012 TravelCare — can transport up to 115,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per trip.
And because of its size, the TravelCare has a lot more flexibility in terms of where it can land. Tecnam states it can make use of dirt, grass, or gravel runways that would be dangerous for larger aircrafts, and it can arrive far more quickly than a van or delivery truck. It also prevents multiple transfers of the vaccines, which scientists have warned against.
From Tecnam, here are some more specs:
- Can maintain -86°C during transport
- Can maintain -65°C for 10-12h after the system is unplugged for further distribution
- Can reduce the distribution cost to as little as USD 0.005 per dose, per flight hour
- Can land with less than 1,850ft of runway
- Can reduce delays in vaccine transportation
Tecnam is no stranger to retrofitting its machines to handle different tasks. So far, it boasts planes designed for medical evacuation, aerial surveillance, and aerial photography. The addition of vaccine transport is another notch in its belt and an inspiration to other light craft makers to hop in the same boat.