According to aviation data firm Cirium, the number of in-storage aircraft totals 6,639, largely due to increasing travel restrictions and tightened borders, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But while passenger flights remain grounded, demand to transport cargo remains strong. Special exemptions from the imposed travel restrictions for pilots and cabin crew – whose health and well-being remains top priority – mean that cargo operations can continue, ensuring airlines can continue to support vital supply chains across the globe.
Virgin Atlantic has just operated its first ever cargo only charter, transporting 12,490 kgs of essential medical and pharmaceutical goods from London to New York, and plans to continue its cargo offering to destinations from the US to the Far East.
Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “Watching Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural cargo-only charter take-off yesterday at London Heathrow added to a feeling of immense pride towards the herculean effort of our Cargo team. Making the flight happen, in such short notice and in such challenging times, reaffirms the fact that we have one of the best teams in the sky supporting supply chains across the globe.”
Others in the supply chain have seen their focus shift away from aviation activities as they step in to help meet the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and key support staff.
In the US, Rock Hill, South Carolina-based Composite Resources, known for its design and manufacture of composite components for the aerospace and defence industries, has diverted resources to make face masks necessary to control the spread of the disease.
Independent provider of onboard products, services and solutions, the Hong-based Kaelis is dedicating its full resources of managing supply chains globally by offering PPE products including masks, goggles, gloves, sanitising gels and wipes and protective gear.
Elsewhere, Embraer is working in partnership with companies and research centres on technologies that can increase the availability of equipment and solutions to combat COVID-19 in Brazil.
The actions, developed jointly with Embraer’s supply chain, include the manufacturing of parts for the ventilator and respirator industry, the replacement of imported components for ventilators, the development of high-efficiency filtration systems for transforming regular hospital beds into intensive care beds and studies for the development of simple, robust and portable respirators aimed at rapid implementation and availability.
A group of professionals has already been leading initiatives in support of a respirator factory in Brazil, with a plan to start the production of parts next week, in response to the emergency demand for this equipment. Embraer, in co-operation with partner organisations, has already completed the technical and production capacity analysis required to meet the identified needs.
In partnership with the Albert Einstein Hospital, located in São Paulo, Brazil, Embraer is also working to provide technical support for the development of biological air filter systems for air-quality control, which can convert regular hospital beds into intensive care beds. Using highly efficient filters for absorbing air particles, already utilised in air conditioning systems on aircraft, the objective is to provide this solution to hospitals with immediate needs.
Another work front is dedicated to analysing the manufacturing of control valves and flow sensors for another respirator industry in the country, in addition to adapting an existing respirator model for use in combating COVID-19.
While airlines may be garnering headlines for their apparent cap-in-hand approach to financial support, whilst also flying cargo missions delivering much needed medical provisions and support, an army of helpers is banding together behind the scenes to utilise their expertise integrating complex systems for the benefit of the society in this worldwide collaborative effort to combat COVID-19.