The social benefits of aviation are perhaps best appreciated when it comes to role of air travel in responding to international emergencies and providing aid. The devastating outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has been responsible for nearly 5000 deaths in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria and many more have been infected with the virus.

As many of the victims of Ebola live in remote and often difficult to access areas, the unique ability of aviation to reach these regions to and deliver medical equipment and transport aid workers has been instrumental in slowing the spread of the virus. The fact that Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids means that any direct contact with an infected person can be deadly. This is why personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gowns, gloves, masks and shoe covers, is essential for anyone treating Ebola patients. As this equipment is not available on the scale needed in the affected countries, importing it from abroad is a necessity.

A prime example of aviation’s role in combating the Ebola outbreak is the Airlink AirBridge for Ebola Response, a coalition between airlines and NGOs, which has been working to transport PPE and health workers to areas where the virus has broken out. Air Canada, Brussels Airlines, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, UPS, TNT, Western Global Airlines and Kalitta Air are all members of this partnership. 

These airlines have helped deliver millions of PPE equipment and other medical supplies, as well as the experts needed to coordinate action. Without the help of airlines, this vital aid simply could not have been delivered so quickly and the Ebola outbreak, which is still ongoing, could have spread much further than it already has.