Paint scheme mirrors nonprofit’s aim to raise HIV awareness
Air traffic controllers, FBO personnel, fellow pilots and passengers have all commented about the striking paint scheme on the 2008 Beechcraft King Air B200GT owned and operated by CAN Community Health, Inc.
Getting people to notice the aircraft is exactly what the organization’s leaders wanted when they shunned traditional stripes for a bold design using their brand colors of red, black and white.
“It makes people ask us about it and why we painted it that way, and then the conversation happens,” said Richard E. Carlisle, president and CEO of CAN Community Health, based in Sarasota, Florida. CAN is a private, not-for-profit organization that provides a full range of services for people living with sexually transmitted diseases that include HIV, hepatitis C and all forms of STDs.
Nobody wants to talk about HIV, he said, but it needs to be talked about because preventing exposure, being tested and seeking treatment after a positive test are keys to eliminating the spread of the virus.
“You don’t hear as much about HIV lately but the spread of the virus is actually at an all-time high,” Carlisle said. “We want people to understand this is a significant problem and that everybody needs to be careful and know their status in order to eliminate the spread of HIV.”
The deep red in the paint scheme represents a person feeling overwhelmed by news that they have tested positive for HIV. Jagged, uneven lines represent the difficult transition a person has from the devastation of finding out they are HIV-positive to the realization that with treatment they can live a normal life, illustrated by the white paint. The black splotches symbolize the difficult times when a patient is going through treatment to get their viral load under control.
Explaining the design on the King Air’s exterior allows CAN to inform people of its mission; operating the King Air allows CAN to fulfill that mission.
CAN started in 1991, coincidentally the same year that professional basketball player Magic Johnson publicly announced he had tested positive for the HIV virus and helped dispel the stereotype that the risk of infection was limited to homosexuals and drug addicts.
While much progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV since the height of the epidemic (it was first listed as a cause of death in 1987), HIV and AIDS remain a serious health problem for the United States and countries around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.1 million people in the United States were living with HIV at the end of 2015, the most recent year this data is available. Worldwide, prevalence is estimated at about 36.7 million people.
“AIDS is the stage of HIV everyone hears about and it is the final stage,” Carlisle explained. “You don’t hear about it as much anymore because not as many people reach that stage thanks to medications now available. We’re able to save people’s lives today, where as before contracting HIV was close to a death sentence.
In the United States, the stigma of the disease and a lack of resources are among the obstacles to people getting tested and then getting treatment with a positive test for the virus,” he said.
“In a lot of places, particularly in the southeast, HIV services are generally only offered through one or two private infectious disease physicians or at the health department,” Carlisle said. “The private physicians have a full workload and can’t take on more patients and if you drive by these health departments, you’ll see 20 to 30 people waiting to get in. If they don’t get in that day, then they start over the next day.”
CAN owns and operates clinics that offer medical, dental, psychological and lifestyle counseling to patients regardless of their ability to pay. They provide HIV specialty care by board-certified infectious disease trained physicians. CAN partners with a local agency that is often already providing non-clinical services, such as prevention counseling, testing and case management.
“We go into a Columbia, South Carolina; a Jackson, Mississippi, or a Columbus, Georgia, and we look for a partner that is already working in that space but doesn’t provide clinical services.” Carlisle said. “They already know the community and the patients. Through a partnership, we bring in the clinical services. We try to create a one-stop shop so when the patient comes through the door, all the services they need can be provided in that one location.”
States reporting the highest rates of people living with HIV are predominantly in the South and the Northeast. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that southern states generally are behind other regions in knowledge of HIV status and the health of people with HIV. CAN targets hotspots mostly in the South and along the Eastern Seaboard where HIV prevalence is high and a lack of services is hindering people from getting adequate care.
“Everywhere we go to set up a clinic, we know that about half the people who have been diagnosed with HIV do not seek out treatment,” Carlisle said. “More than any other chronic illness, people with HIV don’t want anyone to know they have it. There’s shame involved from friends, co-workers and even family. It’s very sad because those are the people who still die from AIDS. If we can get people into treatment and get their viral load under a detectable level, they won’t spread the virus. Our main goal is eliminating the spread of the virus.”
Since Carlisle became CEO in April 2015, CAN has grown from 34 employees at 10 clinic locations to 235 employees at 31 locations. Another 12 locations are in some form of development, including two in Puerto Rico and one as far north as Virginia and New Jersey.
“Partnerships in Morristown, New Jersey, or in Norfolk, Virginia, would not be on my radar if we didn’t have this plane,” Carlisle said of the King Air B200GT. “We have too much to do and it takes too much time to set up a new location that far away from our base in Sarasota. We can’t afford the cost of flying commercially or all the downtime for people to wait in airports with layovers and delays. This airplane makes all the difference.”
‘Our most expensive tool’
“For a not-for-profit to own a King Air, some people might look at it and think that it is a waste of money,” Carlisle said. “It’s the complete opposite, it’s such a savings for us. Geographically we are covering about a third of the country now and there is no way we could do that efficiently with commercial airlines. It’s our most expensive tool in our toolbox, but the King Air is the perfect tool for us.”
Carlisle worked with Matt Jensen, a 42-year-old lifelong pilot who is a licensed general contractor with a background in commercial construction, to establish a logistics office for CAN. As director of logistics, Jensen is involved with real estate development and construction for the organization, while also coordinating CAN’s transportation assets.
The two put together a feasibility study that CAN’s board of directors unanimously approved. They started with a 2003 Beechcraft Bonanza A36 in 2016, flying three to five days a week to visit clinics
“The organization didn’t have any experience with having an aviation department so we wanted to prove the concept to the board and everyone involved in the company,” Carlisle said.
The proof of concept worked well: employees from all levels of the organization flew on the Bonanza and CAN realized cost and time savings. The company was ready to expand its range with a larger airplane and looked for a twin-engine they could fill with people and fuel. In March 2018, CAN purchased the 2008 Beechcraft King Air B200GT.
“We knew before we bought the airplane that we wanted to improve its utility by adding a gross weight increase,” said Jensen, who earned his type rating – necessary because of the GWI – at Flyright, Inc. in Concord, North Carolina. “From what we heard, we could wait as long as a year to get the parts from Beechcraft to convert a plane so we looked for a King Air that already had high float gear. We found an airplane with about 1,900 hours on the airframe that had just gone through phase 1-4 at the company service center in Tampa.”
Jensen coordinates the King Air’s maintenance, using Aircraft Engineering, Inc. in Bartow, Florida, and Textron Aviation’s Tampa Service Center. This summer they contracted Elliott Aviation in Moline, Illinois, for what started as an avionics upgrade to Garmin G1000 NXi and installation of the CenTex Halo 275 STC kit to convert maximum takeoff weight to 14,000 pounds.
CAN expanded the work into a comprehensive revamp to optimize the downtime while still having the Bonanza in the fleet to rely on for the three months the King Air was unavailable.
“We completely refurbished the airplane aesthetically, we did performance enhancements and as they had the plane apart we fixed everything down to if a nut or bolt wasn’t right,” Jensen said.
The exterior paint is topped with a ceramic coating that Jensen said has almost eliminated sooting issues and reduced cleanup time incredibly. Additionally, Elliott mounted LoPresti Boom Beam lights and completed the Raisbeck EPIC Platinum performance package by installing swept props, enhanced leading edges, ram air recovery system, wing lockers and high flotation gear doors.
“Ours is a B200GT that has the -52 engines on it, which perform really well, and we are seeing true airspeed increases of 12 to 15 knots since the installation of the performance enhancements,” Jensen said.
Elliott also refreshed the aircraft’s interior with a seat design change; installing new veneer, carpet and plating; and adding LED lighting, USB ports and the new King Air 350i style headliner.
In the first month since having the airplane back in operation, feedback has been tremendous.
“We’ve had control towers tell us it’s the best paint scheme they’ve ever seen on a plane,” Carlisle said. Added Jensen, “Every FBO that we’ve flown into has commented on the paint.”
It was a productive month, too. Six members of the executive team flew 3.5 hours in the King Air to meet with potential partners for the New Jersey clinic and sealed the deal while there.
Waves of CAN employees at all levels and departments (IT, compliance, risk management, patient care) will travel to the site during implementation and opening of the clinic.
“There is a lot of activity around opening a clinic and if you had to fly commercial for all of that, it would take twice as long and be twice as expensive,” Carlisle said.
The aircraft is also used to visit existing clinics and at least 60 different employees have flown on it. Jensen flies the King Air 35 to 45 hours a month. A typical mission is 2.5 hours flight time with three to six passengers, though CAN regularly carries full fuel and nine on board.
“It’s an amazing airplane and has quickly become one of my favorite airplanes I’ve ever flown,” he said. “It’ll do whatever you want it to do and it’ll do it with a lot of class.”
What you need to know about HIV/AIDS
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. It is the virus that can lead to AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life. While no effective cure exists for HIV, it can be controlled with proper medical care.
You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once. If your behavior puts you at risk after you are tested, you should think about being tested again.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention