a group of people loading boxes into an airplane

With the coronavirus spreading to 201 countries and regions worldwide, an unprecedented amount of essential medical supplies are needed. This includes face masks, gloves, ventilators and test kits.

Aviation is the first choice when it comes to transporting cargo like these. Aircraft can reach any corner on earth, fast and safe.

This unique situation has lead to many unusual flights, including cargo flights operated by passenger jets and special military aircraft flights.

Volga Dnepr Group

Antonov An-124

The second-largest cargo aircraft in the world, the Antonov An-124, has played an important role during the pandemic. Its massive capacity allows for the highest transporting efficiency.

An An-124 with 100 tonnes of medical supplies, including between 10 to 13 million masks, landed at Roissy – Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France.

a plane with a forklift and workers on the ground

Last week, two An-124s, registered as RA-82077 and RA-82047, chartered by Italy flew from Shenzhen to Milan packed with medical supplies. Due to the limitations of its range the flight made two technical stops, one at Ulan-Ude and one at Moscow.

Ilyushin IL-76

Another Volga Dnepr aircraft, the Ilyushin IL-76, has also participated in transporting medical supplies. Last week, RA-76951 flew from Shanghai to Madrid with two technical stops in Irkutsk and Moscow.

airBaltic Airbus A220

airBaltic performed a flight from Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport in China to Riga, carrying 5.1 tonnes or approximately one million face masks and respirators. The 6 hour and 35 minutes flight was operated by an A220-300 with registration YL-CSI.

Air France Cargo

Yesterday, a Boeing 777F Air France (F-GUOB) brought 100 tons of medical supplies from China to Paris; including 5.5 million masks.

Aegean Airlines Conversion

Aegean Airlines has converted one A320 and one A321 into cargo aircraft to operate up to 10 special flights, to bring medical supplies to Greece.

Yesterday their A320, with registration SX-DND, flew to Tianjin, China with one-stop in Almaty, Kazakhstan, making around 10 hours of flight time.

a plane being loaded with packages

TAP Air Portugal A330-900neo

On March 28th a TAP A330-900 (CS-TUS) flew to Shangai, China to transport more than 15 tons of medical material; including 1 million masks and 200,000 COVID-19 screening tests to Portugal. The flight had a duration of 14 hours and it was one of the longest flights ever operated by the airline.

In the coming days, other humanitarian cargo flights are scheduled to and from China.

Inside A330neo passenger cabin (Video provided by TAP)
a group of people standing in front of a plane
a large airplane on a runway

Lufthansa A330

Lufthansa has already made two flights between Shanghai and Frankfurt, using passenger A330s to transport urgent medical supplies. Each aircraft carried around 30 tons of cargo, including 2.8 million masks and 12 tons of relief goods.

“With this unusual solution, we can compensate the lack of cargo capacity in passenger flights and keep the global business running.”

a group of men standing in front of a plane
a large airplane with luggage on it
a bunch of boxes tied to a plane

Air Serbia A330

Air Serbia organised multiple flights from Belgrade to Shangai, China; one of them was operated with the only wide-body aircraft of the company, an A330-200 (YU-ARA). This flight was operated on March 21st and beyond the significant amount of medical aid, a team of Chinese medical experts was also on-board.

Special Flights Help Transporting Medical Supplies

For bringing more medical equipment like masks to Serbia, the airline also used an A320 (YU-APH). The aircraft flew to Shanghai with one-stop in Novosibirsk, Russia and the flight time was around 10 hours.

Wizz Air A321neo

Wizz Air used an A321neo, with registration HA-LVH, to transport 11 tons of medical equipment from China to Hungary, as part of the effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the way back to Hungary, once the aircraft was fully loaded, two refuelling stops were needed. These were done in Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) and Irkutsk (Russia).

Hi Fly A340

On March 28th an A340 of Hi Fly (9H-JAI) arrived in Lisbon from Shangai, China; carrying 24 tons of personal protective equipment, protective suits and masks.

The Hi Fly aircraft flew over Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, the Baltic Sea, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia and China, in about 11300 kms each way. The flight times were 12h 55m from Lisbon to Shanghai and 13h 40m from Shanghai to Lisbon.

Hi Fly itself forgo any profits from the Shanghai venture, the Mirpuri Foundation also donated 100,000 Euros to the mission to ensure its success.

Aer Lingus A330-300

Yesterday, Aer Lingus performed the first of 10 flights to Beijing, China; to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure healthcare workers on the front line of Ireland’s battle with coronavirus are properly protected. 

The aircraft used was an A330-300 (EI-EAV) and carried an estimated 11 million protective masks, 2.3 million eye protectors, 2.4 million gowns and nine million gloves. 

Alitalia’s Boeing 777-300ER

On March 26th an Alitalia Boeing 777-300ER (EI-WLA) arrived in Rome Fiumicino from Shangai, with a load of over 3.5 million masks and other medical supplies.

Before this cargo flight, the national airline of Italy organised a flight to Havana, Cuba. The aircraft arrived in Milan Malpensa Airport with a team of 52 Cuban specialists, 36 doctors, 15 nurses and a logistics specialist to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the Italian region of Lombardy.

Air Algérie A330

On March 27th an A330 of Aer Algérie arrived in Algiers from China.

This first batch of donations contained 500,000 medical surgical masks, 50,000 N95 masks, 2,000 units of medical protective clothing as well as respirators for intensive care

a large airplane with luggage carts and a forklift
Photo by: Xinhua

Hainan Airlines’ Boeing 787-9 & 737

Yesterday a flight arrived at Simon Bolivar International Airport, in Venezuela, from Shangai; with a team of Chinese medical and scientific experts to help fight COVID-19.

“This huge plane full of solidarity,”

said Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza

This flight was operated by Hainan Airlines Boeing 787 (B-1138) and had a stop in Brussels, Belgium. The total flight time was almost 20 hours.

Last Saturday a Boeing 737 of Hainan Airlines arrived at the Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Laos. On-board was a team of 12 medical experts specialised in infectious disease, nursing, virus testing and traditional Chinese medicine from hospitals in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

The plane also carried medicines, nucleic acid testing kits, 10.560 N95 masks, 60,000 medical masks and 6,000 protective suits.

Sunday Airlines’ Boeing 767-300ER

On Sunday March 29th a passenger aircraft of SCAT Airlines landed at Boryspil International Airport, in Kyiv, Ukraine from Xiamen, China.

a plane with many boxes wrapped in plastic
a group of people wearing face masks and carrying boxes
Photos by: Kirill Tymoshenko

The aircraft carried 300,000 respirators, 35,000 protective suits and 1.8 million masks.

“We will have two additional planes starting from Tuesday. It will help pharmacies to quickly fill the market with available masks and other means of protection,”

said Kirill Tymoshenko, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Secretary of the Coordination Council on Combating the Spread of COVID-19

Nepal Airbus A330-200

The government of Nepal sent an A330-200 aircraft of Nepal Airlines (9N-ALY) to Guangzhou, China last Saturday to fetch various medical equipment, necessary for the testing of coronavirus infection and the treatment of infected patients.

a plane taking off from a runway

The aircraft arrived in Kathmandu with 50,000 coronavirus testing kits, 100,000 sets of PPEs and medicines.

World’s Only Ilyushin IL-62F

Yesterday March 30th, Lisbon airport received an Ilyushin Il-62 from the Belarusian cargo airline Rada Airlines.

IL-62F at Lisbon Airport (by: Aviação TV)

The aircraft, with registration EW-450TR, is the only IL-62F in the world and landed in Lisbon coming from Novosibirsk, in Russia. This emblematic plane transported medical supplies from China to support the combat of the COVID-19 in Portugal.

China Southern A330 & 737

A China Southern Boeing 737 arrived at Islamabad International Airport in Pakistan last Saturday, with an 8 member medical expert team from China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The aircraft also carried over 110,000 face masks, 5,000 protection suits, 12 ventilators and other medicines.

On March 23th an A330 of China Southern arrived in Cambodia with a team of 7 medical experts and medical supplies.

Air China A330

This Air China A330 was provided by the Chinese government, after the urgent request of the Greek government; it arrived in Athens last week.

The cargo included 500,000 surgical masks and other medical supplies including protective equipment like glasses, gloves and shoe covers.

Ethiopian Airlines Cargo 777F & 737F

Ethiopian Airlines has delivered medical supplies donated by Jack Ma, the founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, to 39 African Countries.

A freighter flight, carrying 108 tons of test kits and other healthcare products, took off from Guangzhou in China and arrived at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.

a group of people in vests posing for a photo

Africa’s largest cargo operator started distributing the medical supplies to African countries on March 24th. The first group of recipients of the medical supplies is Djibouti, Eritrea, Egypt and Sudan.

Austrian Airlines’ Boeing 777

Austrian Airlines performed until now, two cargo flights using a Boeing 777 passenger aircraft. The flights from Xiamen in China and Penang, Malaysia to Vienna, Austria, carried medical supplies including 65 million gloves.