ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – Arnold Engineering Development Complex leadership at the White Oak site and Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 have been implementing mitigation measures against COVID-19 over the last several weeks.
According to Gregory Fox, Tunnel 9 Branch Manager for the Test Operations and Sustainment contractor National Aerospace Solutions, LLC, the mitigation efforts continue to change daily.
“In order to be able to execute the mission during this crisis, several changes have been made to limit exposure,” Fox said. “Meetings have been reduced in size or eliminated and alternate means of communication are being used, such as teleconferences, Skype meetings, and using the phone and email more.
For the wind tunnel facility and plant, occupancy limits have been placed on the control rooms to only allow the minimum required to execute this current test program, which is below the limit of 10, and to keep spacing without the use of PPE (personal protective equipment).”
Fox added that his personnel are adjusting to these new requirements and are looking out for one another.
“They are waiting their turn or communicating if they need to enter an area for mission-critical reasons,” he said. “Daily tasks are reviewed prior to execution by the team to figure out how to maintain the spacing required and still get the job done. Any risks are understood and if required, a mitigation plan developed for approval.”
The Tunnel 9 team is also looking ahead at what may be coming next and making assessments.
“While execution of some tasks is slower due to them having to be done in series rather than parallel, the team is executing the test while maintaining safety and focus,” Fox said.
To help keep the site safe, visitors have been postponed or canceled and all non-mission essential deliveries or subcontracts that can wait are doing so. If on-site mission critical deliveries are required, a mitigation plan is put in place for each occurrence.
Hand sanitizer and wipes have been strategically placed around Tunnel 9 and are being utilized by the employees. The janitorial staff onsite has also increased its cleaning schedule.
“The theme here is to keep COVID-19 out of the site and keep everyone safe while at work,” Fox said. “The team is under pressure but overall understands the why and does not want any exposure so they are very accommodating to these changes. Keeping the site clean is important since the location of the facility is inside and surrounded by hotspot counties in terms of the number-of-cases criteria.”
AEDC White Oak Air Force Site Director, Joseph Coblish, added his deep appreciation to the crew during this difficult time.
“I am extremely proud of the entire Tunnel 9 team for their ability to rapidly respond to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic safety countermeasures imposed on them both onsite while at work, as well as in their personal lives,” Coblish said. “Even with all of the additional pressures that seem to be happening almost on a daily basis living in a COVID-19 hotspot, they continue to professionally execute our important National Defense Strategy hypersonic test mission. I truly appreciate every one of our team members at White Oak for all they do to make this happen each day.”
As of April 3, Montgomery County, Maryland, where Tunnel 9 is located, had 566 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with Maryland having 2,758 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide.