On Sunday, March 29th, Atlas Air operated the first flight for Project
Airbridge from Shanghai, China into New York City’s John F. Kennedy
The flight carried 130,000 N-95 masks; nearly
1.8 million surgical masks and gowns; more than 10.3 million gloves; and
more than 70,000 thermometers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) “Project Airbridge” effort to move critical supplies
into the U.S. continues at fever pitch via more than 70 all cargo flights
scheduled during April alone, utilizing aircraft of only U.S. Flag—UPS,
FedEx, Atlas Air and some others.
Currently emergency medical cargo is moving
from China, Malaysia, Mexico, Honduras and elsewhere to Chicago, Miami,
Los Angeles, plus into integrator hubs in Columbus and Louisville.
A sidebar to all of this is an all-cargo
airline with lots of freighters and 18 of the newest B747-8Fs in the world,
AirBridgeCargo (ABC) that apparently is not part of Project Airbridge.
The company, at last count with a fleet
of 21 B747Fs: six B747-400Fs and 18 B747-8Fs, has been under increasing
pressure as it reportedly recorded losses of over USD$100 million in 2019.
So looking to right its business as the
world turns, ABC, we suppose, is undoubtedly busy right now utilizing
its mighty freighter fleet elsewhere in this very needy coronavirus-infected
FEMA Freighters Full
The FEMA-led freighter effort has come under
some criticism by U.S. House of Representatives Democrat lawmakers questioning
the relief process.
Undoubtedly in the rush to do good during
a unique time in the history of the U.S., some fault in the process will
be found by lawmakers and others.
Days of Future Past
The Project Airbridge charters of today
are reminiscent of the way the aerial China trade first grew in the 1980s
with B747-200s flying into Asia empty and returning full of cargo, able
to make profits with essentially one-way traffic.
Signal from Noise
Simple as ABC
We wonder, (unless there is a rule that
under any circumstance a foreign flag cannot carry FEMA traffic) that
AirbridgeCargo Airlines, which today operates 18 of the best, most economically
viable U.S.-built B-7478s is not part of the FEMA-led Project Airbridge?
We hear all day long, how Boeing is a most
valuable U.S. manufacturing asset.
Well, those freighters that are being operated
by ABC, kept an awful lot of people in Seattle building airplanes, and
the assembly line of the B747 open and running when it otherwise might
have been shut down.
Something about fair is fair, comes to mind
The Art of the Deal
A source told FlyingTypers, “Perhaps
this is not just an aircraft issue, but also the airport ground handling,
space and road networks which in this case are easier if thrown into the
“As example, not having to worry about
who is going to load in China, when you have your own equipment and staff
could in this case make things less difficult.”
However we wonder if the U.S. did get the
best deal for those 72 or who knows how many more relief flights upcoming
Do the Math
One statement in the UPS press release about
their 25-flight deal with Project Airbridge stands out:
“The first charter flights have already
arrived, and will continue for the next two weeks.
“In total, the 25 UPS-managed flights
will carry more than three million pounds of materials – the equivalent
of 14 full Boeing 747 freighters.”
So we thought about that one for a moment
Why would anyone book 25 flights on UPS
or anybody else for that matter, when it appears that booking the same
tonnage on 14 AirBridgeCargo B747-8F frequencies could save the rough
equivalent cost of 11 flights?
Perhaps the aircraft filled with masks and
robes and plastic gloves cube out before they weight out?
UPS offered an explanation:
“There are a variety of aircraft
being used: 767, MD-11, 777, 747-400 and -8, a combination of UPS aircraft,
and third party carriers we have chartered.
“That also explains the 25 flights/14
747 equivalent question, as some of the aircraft are smaller than a 747.”
In any case, FEMA, fair to say, might have
spread the wealth and saved some money at the same time.
Operations will Continue
Meanwhile, amidst reports the flights will
probably be extended beyond the current number, UPS, for its part, seems
to have landed the major share of the action.
UPS said that it will also dedicate space
for FEMA in its new healthcare facility in Louisville.