Our critical supply operation between Dublin and Beijing is up and running

In mid-March we were contracted by the Health Service Executive of Ireland to fly medical supplies and equipment from China to Dublin. This critical operation will see us transport vital cargo over three months on up to five non-stop flights per day between Beijing and Dublin.

Here’s a closer look at how we’ve been carrying out this mission.

Seven days to plan and launch

Getting an operation of this scale and complexity off the ground in one week is unprecedented. It took extraordinary efforts from individuals and teams in every corner of our business.

Alongside our pilot community, our ground and flight operations, maintenance and engineering,  strategy and planning, commercial, procurement, legal and finance teams worked around the clock to achieve the impossible in record time.

Securing overfly rights for the routing and approvals from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), getting permits and landing slots in Beijing, coordinating with handling agents and freight forwarders in Beijing and creating a schedule and roster for the extensive flying programme were just some of the hurdles overcome in seven days. These tasks normally take months to achieve.

The support and expertise offered by our partners in this endeavour, including IAG Cargo, the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) and its Safety and Technical Committee, and the IAA was instrumental.


A huge response to the call-out

Our pilots and ground operations team responded in huge numbers to volunteer to travel to Beijing.

With up to five daily flights, our Dublin – Beijing operation is now the busiest daily route from Dublin Airport.

The distance from Dublin to Beijing Capital International Airport is approximately 4,500 nautical miles. The flight time to Beijing is approximately ten hours. Time on the ground in Beijing to load the cargo is six hours. And the flight time back home to Dublin is approximately 11 hours.

Five pilots (two Captains and three First Officers, one of whom must be qualified as a Relief Commander), two engineers and a loadmaster (an aircrew member responsible for the loading and stowage of cargo) are needed to undertake each 28-hour round trip.

Our seven crew members stay on the aircraft for the full duration of the flights. Two pilots operate the flight out and two operate the return leg. The Business Class cabin of the aircraft is separated from the main cabin and is used solely for crew rest. The pilots not operating the flight rest in lie-flat Business Class seats.

An unusual approach to taking more cargo

Our maintenance and engineering teams quickly developed innovative solutions to maximise our cargo transportation potential.

As well as loading cargo into the conventional loading bays under the belly of our A330 aircraft, materials are also being loaded and secured into the main passenger cabin for the duration of the operation. This approach was swiftly approved by the IAA.

Each batch from Beijing consists of 600 tonnes of materials, including personal protective equipment like masks, goggles, gowns, gloves and more to help medical staff in Ireland’s fight against COVID-19.

A major milestone on Sunday 29th March

Our first critical supply flight EI 9019 EI-EAV, an Airbus A330 St Ronán, arrived in Dublin on Sunday 29th March from Beijing.

The cargo was offloaded by Aer Lingus, IAG Cargo and the Irish Defence Forces and quickly distributed to medical staff around Ireland.