Delta Air Lines to manufacture face shields

Delta's in-house manufacturing shop.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) turned itself into a cargo airline in response to the coronavirus. Now it’s become a manufacturer.

The company announced April 2 that its Delta Flight Products subsidiary will produce face shields, in collaboration with the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI), to protect hospital workers from the COVID-19 disease. 

GCMI is an Atlanta affiliate of Georgia Tech that helps companies, governments and other innovators design and commercialize new medical products. 

Using materials and designs provided by GCMI, Delta Flight Products will fill an initial order of 2,000 shields to aid workers in New York by Friday, April 3, and an additional 4,000 for Atlanta-area hospitals in the following days.

“Our entire team is rallying around this effort – it’s a meaningful way we can show our support for the healthcare workers working around the clock to protect us,” said Delta Flight Products President Rick Salanitri, in a statement. 

There is a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment, medicines and life-saving devices. Delta is the latest example of companies voluntarily, or at government direction, pitching in to produce products in urgent need by healthcare workers to combat the pandemic. General Motors, for example, is helping make ventilators and apparel companies are making medical masks.

Face shields help extend the useful life of N95 masks, which are in low supply, and protect healthcare professionals from contamination. A clear barrier covers the user’s face, reducing the potential for any virus contacting the user’s eyes and respiratory mask.

Delta Flight Products is serving as an initial manufacturing site to test GCMI’s design and prescribed fabrication process, and could decide to expand face shield production beyond the initial order in the coming weeks, Delta said.

Delta Flight Products was created in the summer of 2016 as an in-house specialty shop to address complex changes to Delta aircraft interiors. The start-up began with 10 employees and now has more than 230 aviation professionals. It’s first task was creating a wireless seatback entertainment system that was more interactive, cost-effective and customizable than existing products on the market. The system, which eliminates heavy wiring that adds to fuel burn, is now available on Delta’s new Airbus A220 regional jets and allows customers to stream free Delta content.

The production shop is also managing the mid-life cabin modernization for Delta’s Boeing 777 and 767-400 fleets, fabricating structural aircraft parts with computer-aided technology and overseeing outside suppliers. Interior components such as closets and cabin wall dividers are fabricated using honeycomb sandwich panels that lower weight.

Delta Flight Products also modified Boeing 777 overhead bins to reduce the lift force required to close a fully loaded bin.

Last month, Delta began flying cargoonly charters and scheduled cargo flights using widebody planes because cargo capacity for shippers is scarce with so many airlines having grounded huge portions of their fleets because of the drop in travel demand.