A look inside the 747 that evacuated Americans from Wuhan
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The 201 Americans who have been evacuated from Wuhan, China, this week amid the coronavirus outbreak have returned to the U.S. in a most unusual way: aboard a cargo jet.
Related coverage: Coronavirus cases now outnumber SARS outbreak
The U.S. government chartered for the occasion a Boeing 747 freighter from Kalitta Air, a cargo-only airline based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, instead of a regular passenger airplane. The 747 was fitted with passenger seats for this flight, according to a post by Facebook page Airline Secrets Exposed, which says it publishes submissions from airline insiders.
An image published by the Facebook page shows the main deck of a 747 freighter with several rows of seats in 3-4-3 layout. The image shows at least 200 seats, consistent with what we know about the plane, which had 240 seats installed.
Passengers would have had no windows, since the cargo versions of 747 do not have any on the main deck.
The 747, a 18-year old freighter registered N705CK, stopped in Anchorage to refuel on the way from Wuhan to March Air Reserve Base, near Riverside, California. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference on Wednesday, after the plane had left Alaska, that the plane was able to carry 240 people but only held 201.
“The whole plane erupted into cheers when the crew welcomed them back to the United States,” Zink was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
We have asked Kalitta Air for confirmation of the authenticity of the images, and whether the plane has been decontaminated after landing in Riverside, but haven’t heard back by publication time.
It’s not clear at this time why the government decided to charter a cargo jet specially outfitted with passenger seats, instead of a regular airliner. We do, however, know the 747 has a peculiarity which makes it ideally suited for evacuating potentially contagious people: Its upper deck, where the cockpit is, can be closed off from the passengers on the main deck.
Indeed, according to the AP, the flight crew stayed on the upper deck for the whole flight, sealed off from passengers, and did not get off the plane in China. Flight-tracking site FlightRadar24 shows that the plane landed in Wuhan at 10:14 p.m. local on January 28 and left at 4:54 a.m. the following day. Since the flight crossed the International Date Line eastbound, the plane arrived in Alaska the day before it left China.
Also according to FR24, the 747 has already left California. On Wednesday, it took off from March at 2:28 p.m. and landed about two and a half hours later in Seattle, where it remains at the time of this writing.
Zink said all passengers had been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Anchorage, they stayed inside the airport’s North Terminal, which according to airport manager Jim Szczesniak is rarely used during the Alaskan winter. It’s separated from the domestic terminal and has its own ventilation systems.
Photographers who saw the 747 land at March said it was met on the tarmac by emergency vehicles and three buses. The Department of Defense said the evacuees will be sent to local hospitals if they are suspected of being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, which has killed around 170 people and spread around the world since it first emerged in a food market in Wuhan in December. On Thursday, the New York Times reported, authorities found the first case of transmission from person to person in the U.S. The infected person is the husband of a woman who returned from Wuhan, but was not on the evacuation plane.
Featured photo: The evacuation plane from Wuhan at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on January 28, 2020 (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 100,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $2,000
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.