A 51 year old McDonnell Douglas DC-8-72CF has taken to the skies, in an effort to help combat the global COVID-19 pandemic. On board the aircraft was an assortment of medical equipment, a field hospital and a crew of highly-skilled medical staff.

The aircraft, registered N782SP, is owned by US evangelical aid organisation Samaritan’s Purse, it will be supporting COVID-19 relief efforts across the world. Built in 1969, the aircraft was originally delivered to Finnair as a freighter, registered OH-LFR, until retiring with the airline in 1981.

The French Air Force then acquired the plane until 1984. It later flew for Air Transport International, before eventually ending up with Samaritan’s Purse in 2015.

COVID-19: 51 Year Old DC-8 Flies to Support Italy
Finnair McDonnell Douglas DC-8 OH-LFZ (Wikimedia Commons)

This latest mission saw the aircraft perform a flight to Verona in Italy, where it unloaded a 68 bed field hospital. Additionally, 20 tons of medical equipment were delivered; including unloading a respiratory care unit developed specifically for the COVID-19 response.

32 disaster relief personnel, consisting of doctors and nurses, were also on the aircraft preparing to help combat the virus in Italy, which has already taken the lives of over 6,000 people. The relief personnel will stay in the hot spot for approximately one month.

“We are going to Italy to provide life-saving care to people who are suffering. There is a lot of fear and panic around the world, but we trust that God is in control. We continue to pray for everyone affected by this global health crisis and for our medical team as they respond.”

Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse

Samaritan’s Purse says it will quickly set up its mobile medical facility in Cremona, about 50 miles outside of Milan, so they can offer compassionate care to patients in desperate need.

In order to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place for the crew members and medical personnel, the organisation has been working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19: 51 Year Old DC-8 Flies to Support Italy
Samaritan’s Purse McDonnell Douglas DC-8

Roughly two thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in Italy have been in the Lombardy region, which lies around Cremona and Milan. Already the healthcare system in the region has been overwhelmed and has been desperately awaiting support.

Due to Italy’s high average age across their population, COVID-19 has been a nasty problem; with the virus being the most serious for senior adults. According to Samaritan’s Purse, Italy reported around 700 new deaths on Sunday and Monday alone.

“We are always ready to provide critical relief in the face of crisis,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse.

Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse

Prior to the flight into the COVID-19 stricken location Edward Graham, the youngest son of Franklin Graham who is the president of Samaritan’s Purse, provided encouragement to the crew members in the form of a speech and prayers.

COVID-19: 51 Year Old DC-8 Flies to Support Italy
Samaritan’s Purse McDonnell Douglas DC-8 Crew

Samaritan’s Purse is the first, international, organisation to provide emergency medical relief to people impacted by COVID-19 in Northern Italy. As well as providing the hospital, staff and equipment, the organisation is working alongside local churches and chaplains to bring spiritual comfort to the people.

As COVID-19 continues to rage on across the globe, the organisation continues to monitor the situation and is ready to react wherever requested upon.