Cargo planes

Summary List Placement

A vaccine to end the coronavirus pandemic is nearing the finish line and getting it from the manufacturing point to the injection site will be one of the cargo aviation industry’s most consequential missions to date. 

In the pandemic’s nascent period, the most valuable commodity was personal protective equipment. The easy-to-transport essentials like face masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper replaced passengers on the world’s aircraft and airlines quickly began converting their planes to makeshift freighters, flying as much cargo as possible in the first COVID-19 pandemic airlift. 

Now, Pfizer and Moderna are close to declaring success with their COVID-19 vaccines that are at least 90% effective and nearing emergency authorization. Both companies have said they’ll seek the green light for their vaccines soon, as early as Friday, at which point regulators will begin the potentially weeks-long review process. 

Anticipating a positive result, airlines are once again preparing to take to the skies in yet another global cargo-transporting endeavor— one that has the potential to end the pandemic but nevertheless presents its own set of problems.

How airlines are preparing

Only certain airlines have the infrastructure and certifications to fly vaccines and pharmaceutical cargo, both of which have special handling requirements that vary by product. Airlines who saw the writing on the wall began improving their pharmaceutical handling capabilities early in the pandemic to be ready for this airlift.

Read more: 6 cargo airlines and freight operators poised to win big when Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is ready to go

In the US, FedEx Express and UPS Airlines have built freezer farms at their respective hubs in Memphis and Louisville.

The Louisville farm, along with another newly-constructed facility in the Netherlands, will be able to store 48,000 vials of vaccine at -112-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, as Business Insider’s David Slotnick reported. FedEx Express also grew its infrastructure to 90 cold storage facilities scattered across nearly every populated continent and added to its fleet of freezers, refrigerator trucks, and sensors. 

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The Middle Eastern mega carriers will also play a major role in transporting the vaccine, utilizing their extensive passenger and cargo route networks to reach every corner of the globe. 

Earlier this year, Emirates SkyCargo shifted its entire cargo operation from Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport to Dubai International Airport, freeing up an entire cargo processing facility at the former that’s now been dedicated to vaccine transport for once the airlift begins. 

Julian Sutch, Emirates SkyCargo’s global manager for pharma, described the facility to Business Insider as “world’s largest dedicated air site distribution hub.” And despite the surrounding desert climate, it boasts cold storage capacity of “4,600 pallets at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees.”

Qatar Airways Cargo signed a leasing agreement in September for more temperature-controlled shipping containers produced by Skycell, increasing its daily temperature-controlled cargo processing capability by 270 units at Hamad International Airport. The hub is also equipped with a 30,000-square foot facility with temperature-controlled zones going as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius. 

These facilities can’t keep the Pfizer vaccine at …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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