On 5 April 2020 at 17:45 LX2689 (HB-JMC) has landed in ZRH. It is a sunny spring evening and representatives of various companies are gathering at the Delta 13 stand. This time there are no passengers on board, but medical protective equipment, which is needed more than ever in our hospitals these days. This is the very first flight in the history of SWISS to carry cargo in the cabin as well as in the regular cargo hold.
Until this point was reached, intensive preparatory work and clarifications with various specialists were necessary. Following a risk assessment, a five-hour test was conducted in collaboration with Swiss WorldCargo, Ground Ops and the Cabin Maintenance department of SWISS Technics to verify the feasibility of implementing the planned measures on the A340 aircraft. This was necessary to ensure that the aircraft could be prepared for in-flight cargo transport in accordance with the FOCA (BAZL), the manufacturer’s and Swiss WorldCargo’s requirements.
The requirements were clear: to transport and secure as much cargo as possible without damaging the cabin – especially the seats. This would result in considerable costs. In the afternoon before the scheduled departure, the seats were well packed and covered with specially designed cargo nets.
On the morning of April 4, JMC took off for Shanghai (PVG). On board: the crew, a loadmaster and a cabin engineer from SWISS Technics. After 12 hours of flight time, the A340 landed in Shanghai at 3 am.
Sleeping in the cabin, “walks” around the plane
To avoid having to go through the extensive and not entirely risk-free entry procedure of the Chinese authorities, a short ground time of only eight hours was planned. During this time the crew slept on board, rested and took “walks” in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft. Then, together with the Chinese Swissport crew, the colleagues loaded the aircraft with urgently needed medical supplies. At first, it was a big chaos, but after some clarifying discussions between cabin engineer, station manager and the Swissport crew, the cabin was loaded and secured within only half an hour.
During the return flight, the colleagues checked the cabin at regular intervals and inspected the cargo and the securing cargo nets. After a little less than 12 hours flight time, JMC landed the valuable cargo safely in Zurich. The aircraft was unloaded, the cabin was then thoroughly checked for any interference and made ready again for the next cargo flight.
These special flights are an impressive example of how, within a very short time, employees from different departments and companies can work hand in hand and face previously unknown challenges with a positive attitude. Thanks to the collegial exchange of ideas, the corresponding know-how and the mutual trust between the various companies involved, SWISS now flies numerous important cargo flights to Asia and brings urgently needed medical supplies to Switzerland every day.