The GAO says that the US aviation system is ill-prepared to deal with the possibility of a communicable disease threat. As usual, a government agency recommends that
- one of its brethren federal bodies
- in conjunction with other public servants,
- develop plans,
- coordinate them,
- share them with stakeholders,
- review and synthesize the comments,
- revise the 50 page, heavily tabbed document and
- put them in binders with nice logos
- to sit in the shelves of airlines and airports.
After twelve months of policy/procedure gestation, all the airports, airlines and the US will be well prepared for a likely event, which will not exactly fit any of the possible scenarios in the nice book.
Virtually simultaneously therewith, a 17 year old Vancouver, Canada high school student-inventor, Raymond Wang, created a device that will improve air quality in aircraft cabins. This system will not prevent diseases from entering the US via passengers, but it will limit the proliferation of the germs/virus during flight.
As the high school, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Scholarship winner explained his invention:
“I generated the industry’s first high-fidelity simulations for aircraft cabin air flow,” Mr. Wang said. “A lot of people have studied the outside of airplanes extensively, and understandably so, because the airplane has to fly. But what I’ve been able to do…after 32 different simulations, is come up with a solution [to improve air quality], economically without the need to take the whole cabin apart or spend tens of thousands of man-hours or millions of dollars.”
Practically that translates to a modification of the air-circulation pattern; the new flow would isolate passengers in their own cushions of air, and excluding the transmission of germs coughed and sneezed by sick persons on board.
Raymond lives in Canada and is considering his choices among a number of prestigious Classes of 2020 at the elite colleges. More of such innovative thinking is as likely to do as much or more to minimize the threat of communicable diseases than all of the well-ordered papers generated within the Beltway.
Yes, planning and procedures are needed and useful, but the collective ingenuity, well applied by individuals, may do as well or better.