Roxboro parachute maker pivots to PPE


Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, North American Aerodynamics has added the production of facemasks to its menu of manufactured goods.
General Manager Linn Long said the company’s manufacturing process is 90 percent government parachute manufacturing, but the manufacturers also create sport parachutes.
Long said the current male and female civillian world champions and the female military world champion in accuracy parachuting use North American Aerodynamics’ Parafoil Gold canopies.
But that experience doesn’t carry over to personal protective equipment.
“We have no expertise in PPE at all,” he explained. “But we just wanted to try to help out a little bit.”
Long said they partnered with Morganton-based Carolina Textile District to acquire the materials.
“We didn’t have anything in here – all we have is nylon or cotton duck,” he said. “They did all the research and the fabric they ended up sending us is BioSmart by Milliken. Its chlorine activated – when you wash it with clorox, the chlorine bonds to the fabric and it’s known to kill 99.9 percent of all germs, but not proven to kill the coronavirus yet.”
According to the Carolina Textile District website, the masks should be washed in hot water and small amount of chlorine bleach before use to activate the properties of the microbial finish.
A Milliken fact sheet states that EPA-registered chlorine bleach will recharge the BioSmart fabric.
The masks are designed to be washed at least 75 times.
Long said two workers have transitioned to making masks with the prospect of making 2,000 masks for Carolina Textile District. After those are completed, Long said they will work to make masks for local use.
“We’re not trying to make any money,” he said. “We just want to break even on them so we can help out people.”
He said the idea to make masks came from a conversation with owner John Higgins.
“He’s a big old soft-hearted guy and wants to help out people. So we decided we would look into it and we had a few extra people we could pull. We’re having to start off slow and hopefully we can get a few more people in the door to start sewing and then we can grow.”
It takes about three minutes to complete a mask, Long said. The goal is to make 1,000 masks per week.
Long said there is no set timetable for how long North American Aerodynamics will make masks.
“We’ll just make them until things settle down and everything’s more available,” he said. “We’re not trying to get into it as a business – it’s never crossed our mind. We know parachutes. We just wanted to help out during the crisis and when things slow back down we’ll pull the plug on that.”
Long said the addition is a natural evolution.
“It makes you feel good that we’re able to help a little bit,” he said. “It just seems like the thing you’re supposed to do. If you have the ability to help then you should help. It’s kinda like passing by somebody on the side of the road with a flat tire – you stop to help them.”
The masks are being sold at


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