STILL FLYING: STAR AIR’S COVID-19 Humanitarian cargo flights into CHINA

PT 2 M minute read

While news headlines focus on the decline of international travel, it’s important to remember that many essential and critical missions are still being conducted by the general and business aviation communities. Many of these missions save lives or reunite people with their loved ones. During a crisis like COVID-19, our industry shines.

One of the largest hurdles in coordinating COVID-19 humanitarian cargo missions in China is the matter of how to manage crew rest.

Will the crew be quarantined if they disembark the aircraft on the ramp in China? Can they stay on the aircraft overnight? Is there a viable tech stop in the region for overnight rest? How quickly can we get a cargo charter permit?

When Denmark-based Star Air asked for our assistance in supporting several COVID-19 humanitarian medical supply pickups in China, our teams had to answer those questions and develop a plan.

Bringing COVID-19 humanitarian cargo to several EU countries

Due to the huge surge in need for cargo flights to deliver COVID-19 cargo, the client needed additional aircraft to keep up with the demand. Star Air was contracted to support and reached out to Universal to help make it happen. We would be supporting four separate missions to different cities in China. On each flight, a Boeing 767 would fly to China, pick up the cargo, and then deliver it back to Europe

Short-notice mission incoming        

The first mission came with little lead-time for our Universal Aviation China team in Shanghai. Normally, the lead-time for a chartered cargo flight is two weeks. However, after leveraging our contacts with Chinese Civil Aviation and the local airport and explaining the purpose of the mission, we were able to receive the landing permit in just two days.

The crew rest conundrum

Now we had to work with Star Air on a plan for crew rest. Due to China’s COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, disembarking the aircraft is not an option, as crew would automatically be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Each mission was a little different. We worked with Star Air using various methods to ensure the crew stays safe and gets its required rest, while not being forced into a local quarantine.

Overnighting in Russia

An alternative and better long-term solution was finding a viable tech stop. This would be difficult with much of Asia closed to business aviation traffic.

All of our Universal Aviation offices in the Asia-Pacific region began collaborating to find a solution. One option that presented itself was Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport (UNNT) in Ob, Russia. Usually, foreign crew require visas in Russia. Our Universal Aviation Russia team reached out to its customs contacts at the agents, explaining the purpose of the flight, and we were given permission for the Star Air crew to overnight in Ob.

Eight successful missions…so far

As of this writing, we’ve supported eight Star Air missions to China and have several more scheduled. We’re proud to have worked with Star Air to bring essential COVID-19 supplies to the U.K., Denmark and Sweden.

Considering a humanitarian cargo flight? We can help.

If you are considering a humanitarian cargo mission to China during the COVID-19 crisis, we are here to help. Universal is waiving all fees for trip feasibility assessments, research, and consultation services—even if we have to burn hours researching to get you the answer. Now is the time to come together as an industry, and as a community, to do whatever it takes to make these critical missions happen.


Got a question for Universal about this article?