National flies special freighters with Ebola relief
National Airlines in cooperation with the US government recently carried a planeload of medical and relief supplies for Ebola affected regions of West Africa from New York to Monrovia, Liberia using one of its B747-400 freighters. For National Airlines, it was an important mission and the carrier was quick to respond to such an emergency request. National is expected to do five more such flights in the weeks ahead. National has significant expertise in specific air-freight services and has many years of experience in working with and supporting governments and militaries around the world. The carrier has been flying passengers and cargo to remote and challenging destinations. Therefore, flying relief material to the heart of Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the perfect challenge and National did not shy away from doing it, despite several risks. “National Airlines’ team of employees has been called on to assist in a variety of difficult situations, from flying missions into war zones to bringing aid to victims of natural disasters. We have been anxious for an opportunity to do something for those in Africa threatened by this disease, and we jumped into action when called on for this medical and supply mission,” said Glen Joerger, president of National Airlines. Christopher Alf, chief executive of National Air Cargo Holdings, the parent company of National Airlines reaffirmed the group’s commitment to do everything possible to help eradicate Ebola. “All of the National companies — our airlines and all of our freight forwarding arms in the Middle East, New York and Germany — stand ready to support the governments and relief agencies of the United States and other countries in their efforts to eradicate this terrible disease from the globe,” Alf said in a statement. Flying missions like that of National becomes extremely crucial during medical and healthcare emergencies like the one now in West Africa on account of Ebola outbreak. In fact, tonnes of medical supplies, personal protective equipment and food destined for Ebola affected regions of West Africa are either held back or delayed at various airports in Europe because airlines have cancelled flights to destinations in West African countries that have reported Ebola outbreak. However, it is important to note that during emergencies arising out of natural disasters and epidemics; where relief is called for, it is only air freight that can respond efficiently with the shortest turnaround time. Interestingly, aviation has a very close connection with the discovery of Ebola virus itself. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Professor Peter Piot, who was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, recalled a pilot from Sabena Airlines (the erstwhile national carrier of Belgium) bringing to his lab in Antwerp a shinny blue thermos and a letter from a doctor in Kinshasa in what was then Zaire. According to Piot, now the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the doctor’s letter said the thermos contained a blood sample of a Belgian nun who had recently fallen ill from a mysterious sickness in Yambuku, a remote village in the northern part of the country. Piot and his team were asked to test the sample for yellow fever. The test and research that followed eventually led to the discovery of Ebola virus.