New England Patriots jet transports 1 million masks from China

Apr 2, 2020

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The New England Patriots’ team plane was used to transport over a million N95 respirator masks from China to the United States via Alaska to aid in coronavirus relief, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

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The Journal reports that the Boeing 767 was flown from Shenzhen (SZX) to Boston (BOS) as Massachusetts struggles with a shortage of supplies. The state got a deal from Chinese suppliers to provide masks and then worked to secure permission from China to fly and land the plane in the country, the Journal reported. Massachusetts’ governor, Kraft, and others wrote to China asking permission to land the plane for humanitarian reasons and stated that the crew wouldn’t leave the aircraft. China generally mandates two weeks of isolation for incoming travelers. The flight crew also needed to obtain visas before arrival.

After a brief stop on the ground, over a million masks were loaded onto the plane. Most were sent to Boston but Kraft pledged to send 300,000 N95s to New York, the state hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’ve never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Journal. “In today’s world, those of us who are fortunate to make a difference have a significant responsibility to do so with all the assets we have available to us.”

When not performing humanitarian relief, the plane serves as the Pats’ team jet. The Patriots announced in 2017 that they would become the first NFL team to own an aircraft, instead of getting around on leased planes. The team displayed the wide-body jet at a ceremony at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island (PVD).

WARWICK, RI - OCTOBER 4: Ground crew members prepare the New England Patriots' customized Boeing 767 prior to its inaugural flight at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, RI on Oct. 4, 2017. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Ground crew members prepare the New England Patriots’ customized Boeing 767 prior to its inaugural flight at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, RI on Oct. 4, 2017. (Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)

With the rising cost of chartering airplanes, the Patriots purchased two 767s in order to ferry the team and staff around the country. According to Airfleets.net, the 767-323ER that was shown off was operated by American Airlines from 1991 through 2016 and sat in storage until the Patriots picked it up. The aircraft’s registration number is N36NE and is operated by an entity named Team 125.

American Airlines was a large operator of charter flights for football teams until it announced that it would no longer fly the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins due to a lack of aircraft.

The jet is decked out in Patriots livery and the cabin appears to be outfitted in a 2-3-2 and 2-2-2 configuration with what looks like domestic first-class recliner seats. Each seat appears to have a large IFE screen in the headrest.

“We got the widest and largest seats that you can put on this plane,” Jim Nolan, Gillette Stadium COO, said in the video. “We’ve added five inches of legroom beyond what a typical first-class seat has.” TPG might disagree with Nolan since lie-flat seats exist on similar aircraft — or what about the Etihad Residence?

Nolan added that the team didn’t go with narrowbody aircraft because they “don’t have the amount of seats or the amount of capacity underneath the plane to handle the number of people we travel [with] or the amount of equipment we travel [with].”

The 767 has been dubbed the ‘Airkraft’ as a nod to the Patriots’ owner, Robert K. Kraft. According to Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, the two jets will be based out of T.F. Green Airport — about a 33-mile drive from Gillette Stadium.

Seats appear to be adorned with headrest displaying certain players’ numbers. Tom Brady’s number 12 and Matthew Slater’s number 18 are on two of the seats. The aircraft’s tail also is painted with the team’s five Super Bowl trophies, although it appears that there isn’t much room to add any more.

Featured Image by Boston Globe contributor/Getty Images.

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