**Update 04/05/2020 @13:58UTC– Additional clarification on the weight of each aircraft**
From late-March, Aer Lingus had a task to fulfill. The Health Service Executive of Ireland contracted the airline to fly in medical supplies and equipment to Dublin from China. Now, for the next few months, Aer Lingus will be operating up to five nonstop flights per day between Beijing and Dublin to bring cargo onboard Airbus A330 aircraft.
Putting the flights together
Aer Lingus released a full blog post about getting these flights in operation. Amazingly, in just seven days, the airline worked together to bring in pilots, operations, maintenance, legal, and financial teams to pull these flights together. Beijing is not a regular destination for Aer Lingus. As a result, the carrier had to quickly secure overfly rights, receive government approvals, and get landing and takeoff slots in Beijing.
We're working closely with our government and Ireland's Health Service Executive to support our healthcare workers. pic.twitter.com/zXwRf3rfBv
— Aer Lingus (@AerLingus) April 3, 2020
The routine for pilots
According to Aer Lingus, the flight time from Dublin to Beijing is about 10 hours. The return leg is about 11 hours. On each flight, there are five pilots: two Captains and three First Officers. One of those First Officers is a qualified Relief Commander. Also onboard are two engineers and a loadmaster responsible for the loading and stowage of cargo.
Interestingly enough, the seven crew members stay on the aircraft for the entire duration of the trip. Two pilots fly out and the other two fly the aircraft and cargo back. The others get to rest for the journey in the A330’s lie-flat business class cabin. Aer Lingus is leaving economy class open to haul cargo from Beijing.
Bringing the cargo back to Dublin on an A330
The Airbus A330 is the largest aircraft in the airline’s fleet. While a fair bit of cargo can fit in the aircraft’s hold, Aer Lingus took an innovative approach to bring even more cargo back. This involves the use of seat bags. These cargo bags are strapped in on the passenger seats and allow the airline to make more use of the aircraft’s space for carrying cargo.
Every cargo batch out of Beijing holds a total of 600 tons of supplies across five aircraft. This includes masks, goggles, gowns, gloves, and other necessary supplies. Upon reaching Dublin, Aer Lingus, IAG Cargo, and the Irish Defence Forces help unload the cargo and distribute it across Ireland.
While passengers may not be traveling across continents, airlines are dispatching widebodies on long-haul operations to bring as much cargo and medical supplies as possible. Aer Lingus is making use of as much space as it can on its Airbus A330s through the use of innovative seat bags. Through this, Aer Lingus can bring 600 tons of cargo per batch of five aircraft from Beijing.
What do you make of Aer Lingus’ feat bringing cargo to Dublin from Beijing? Let us know in the comments!