Flying with Thirteen Tonnes of Hope

Disaster response Community lifelines

Throughout April we are offering 40 flights between Spain and China with the objective of bringing medical supplies. Part of these flights correspond to the Sanitary Air Corridor, created together with Fenin and the Oesía Group, and part with the Government of Spain.

Juan de Lorenzo has been an Iberia captain since 1988. He’s one of the pilots who volunteered to make flights to China to pick up medical supplies.

A few days ago he landed an A-350 in Madrid with nearly 13 tonnes of medical supplies for distribution by Spain’s Health Ministry, including respirators, personal protective equipment (PPE), and face masks. Here’s his story:

It was quite an experience, a great flight in which the entire crew was very conscious of the importance of our contribution to the fight against the coronavirus. I can speak for all of them in saying that we were very happy and proud to take part.

It was an unusual flight, and not only because there were no passengers. There were four captains and four co-pilots aboard, so we could make the quickest possible turnaround whilst complying with air safety rules about flight crew rest periods.

The outgoing flight was perfect, with no problems of any kind. But upon landing we faced something unexpected. China had just implemented new rules that could lead to a longer waiting time, from four to 15 hours. What could we do?

We contacted the Duty Chief, the Operations Manager, and the Management Committee in Madrid. The decision: to comply with air safety rules by resting, and then to return with our cargo hold full.

It was a unanimous decision. We rested aboard the plane for what turned out to be eleven hours, when the cargo was finally loaded.

When the paperwork was finally completed, loading began. There was five and a half tonnes of personal protective equipment in 325 cases, four tonnes of face masks in 760 cases, and three tonnes of respirators in 167 cases.

So we took off with those 12.5 tonnes of medical supplies and at least the same amount of excitement and hope –hospitals in Spain were counting on us.

Our airport colleagues were ready for us in Madrid. The “Follow Me” vehicle led us to the parking spot as quickly as possible. Waiting handling staff unloaded the goods that we had brought home in record time. The camaraderie was inspiring!

Definitely a flight to remember. Here are the data:

Flight Number: IB0036
Cargo: 13,800 kg.
Total kms: 21,800
Average speed: 920 km/h
Total flying time: 26 hours
Time in aircraft: 38 hours