Knight Aerospace is a San Antonio-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that designs and manufactures aeromedical modules and pallet solutions for use in military cargo aircraft. Knight‘s executive team includes aerospace industry experts, business vanguards, and long-tenured military officers and advisors.
Knight’s work couldn’t be any timelier. CEO bianca Rhodes said:
“On our team, we have a retired Air Force surgeon general named P.K. Carlton -a brilliant man, hero, and patriot. He was in the Pentagon during the attacks on 9/11 and crawled under desks to get out and save lives and even did some critical ad hoc surgeries. He’s an incredibly talented surgeon and has been a Senior Medical Advisor since inception.
“He believes that the military should be building a reserve of aeromedical modules for that day. Just like we weren’t ready for 9/11, he believes that there’s an opportunity.”
The firm regularly partners with other entities and government regulatory agencies. Knight skillfully manages its partners’ contributions, bringing world-class air medical transport products into the global marketplace.
Knight’s ABCM Involved Collaborative Development
Knight’s entry into the aeromedical module arena emerged from its 30-year aviation ground support industry tenure. President and CEO Bianca Rhodes’ 2017 purchase of the company took place shortly after the devastating Ebola outbreak.
Rhodes and her advisers quickly recognized the need for an Aeromedical Bio-Containment Module (ABCM). The completed roll-on/roll-off unit is configured for transport on C-130, C-17, and other cargo aircraft.
The stand-alone ABCM’s multiple-room configuration, hermetic seals, and negative pressurization are key design features. Together, they ensure safe transport of infectious patients while keeping the medical team infection-free. Ground-based generator power enables the ABCM to function as a hospital-grade medical care unit.
The ABCM’s design phase was a collaborative process involving input from operators (or product users). Domain experts, including military flight surgeons and military experts, were also integral to the ABCM’s design work. Today, the domain experts provide ongoing guidance to Knight’s programs.
The ABCM’s commercial viability depends on its adherence to strict aerospace industry design, build, and airworthiness requirements. Knight frequently works with major industry OEMs to meet these rigorous standards. With proof of compliance, the ABCMs can fly without waivers.
How the Knight Aerospace ABCM Addresses Timely Medical Needs
Knight’s ABCM is configured to provide infectious or critically ill patients with safe medical air transport aboard cargo aircraft. President and CEO Bianca Rhodes acknowledged the military’s increased requirement for such transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in response, Knight ramped up the ABCM’s existing development process. “We see this as a way of serving first responders during this global health crisis and serving a pressing need,” Rhodes emphasizes.
The RCAF Successfully Deploys the First ABES
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) purchased Knight’s first aeromedical module in 2021. The RCAF’s Aeromedical Bio-Containment Evacuation System (ABES) has transported numerous COVID-19 patients in-country and internationally.
ABCM Could Prove Useful in April 2022 Ebola Outbreak
On April 23, 2022, the northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo reported a new Ebola case. Health authorities began taking aggressive containment measures in a region that experienced 13 earlier Ebola outbreaks.
The newest Ebola outbreak demonstrates the need for safe infectious patient containment and stand-alone on-site treatment. Knight’s ABCM is ideal for these two essential functions.
Additional Knight Aerospace Partnerships
Knight frequently partners with domestic OEMs and other aerospace companies. The company augments its existing equipment with custom installations.
Knight recently teamed with Raytheon Technologies subsidiary Collins Aerospace. The team will market the updated Air Transportable Galley Lavatory (ATGL), suitable for diverse cargo aircraft platforms.
Knight also partners with international entities. Clients include contractors, countries, and national military organizations.
Knight is working with Rossell Techsys to supply roll-on/roll-off palletized modules to the Indian aerospace market. Units include the Knight aeromedical module, the Knight ATGL, VIP/economy seats, and patient transport equipment.
In July 2021, Knight delivered a roll-on/roll-off passenger palletized system to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). The Knight system features executive or economy class seats, passenger lavatories, and a galley. The organization’s Embraer KC-390 Millennium cargo plane and FAB’s C-130 aircraft will deploy the system. The FAB could utilize the system to evacuate Brazilian citizens from Ukraine.
Potential Knight Aerospace ABCM Military Applications
The company’s military advisers have warned of a near-peer high-flow conflict with China or Russia. If that occurs, there could be higher-than-usual numbers of casualties and injuries. This scenario would create the need for large-scale medical evacuations, possibly in remote areas.
What does that mean for medical evacuation? How do you take these modules and replicate them?
Emerging Suborbital Transportation
Knight is currently exploring the logistics of moving large quantities of equipment across the globe via suborbital travel.
2021 Hyperspace Challenge
In 2021, the United States Space Force (USSF) invited 13 small businesses and 11 university-based teams to participate in the 2021 Hyperspace Challenge. The competition’s Rocket Cargo Component is significant, as the USSF wants to move the project from concept to reality.
The USSF seeks real-world ways to deliver massive cargo loads using space launches. Within hours, a load of up to 100 tons could arrive at any destination on the planet. Not surprisingly, Knight stepped up to the plate. Knight sees the suborbital transport arena as the next-level progression in its modular cargo transport business.
Knight Aerospace Inspires Future Generations
Knight CEO Bianca Rhodes embraces the opportunity to participate in aerospace innovation. She believes that cultivating students’ curiosity about aerospace opportunities is also important. Together, both efforts will help propel Knight and the aerospace industry toward the future.