My name is Laura and I work as a Cabin Engineer in the SWISS maintenance department. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, many things have changed for all of us. I will show you some aspects of our new special working environment and how we help to maintain the supply chain to Switzerland. I hope you enjoy my insights into the cargo special mission.
Despite the changes in passenger demand and travel restrictions, there is still a great demand for air cargo – especially for various medical supplies, facemasks and protective equipment. These important goods are needed to support our local hospitals, pharmacies and medical staff across the country, so we transport the products on special flights. At first, the cargo flights were operated with an Airbus A340 aircraft, but now we are using the bigger and more efficient Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
In order to make the best possible use of the space, the goods were not only transported in the cargo hold, but also in the passenger cabin. We needed to make sure that the goods were still transported securely without damaging the cabin and the seats. To do so, we protected the seats with covers and cargo nets were provided to hold the boxes in place while in flight.
Since we never used the cabin as cargo space before, it took us some time for preparations, clarifications and verifications before the first flights. Furthermore, we carried out a risk assessment in collaboration with our Operations Department, Swiss WorldCargo and the Maintenance Team. This was necessary for the aircraft to meet the specifications of the FOCA (Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation) and the manufacturer to safely transport cargo in the cabin.
Some weeks into the Corona pandemic, we finally converted three Boeing 777 to match the high demand from customers, especially for medical protective gear. This means that we removed all SWISS Economy seats from the aircraft, which allows us to transport up to 36% more freight (about 12 tons extra cargo capacity) per flight. Without the SWISS Economy seats there is a lot more space available for the ground handlers to move around when loading and unloading cargo boxes. After removing the seats, we stowed and protected covers and cables so they cannot be damaged during cargo transportation. We also divided the cabin into different cargo areas and mounted nets in the floor rail brackets.
This modification requires about 20 cabin mechanics for 8 hours each, or 160 working hours in total, per aircraft. We call this configuration of a Boeing 777-300ER without economy seats CARRY: “CARgo with Removed seats in Y-class”
SWISS has now conducted more than 150 charter cargo flights. The new cargo service helps support the Swiss economy and we are proud to do our part in managing this crisis.
I hope you enjoyed my short excursion into our new work life. Stay healthy everyone! Cheers, Laura.