What it's like to work a Wuhan evacuation flight
A number of countries, from the United States to the UK, have sent a variety of aircraft — from a Boeing 747 freighter, normally used to ferry consumer goods and other products, to the world's largest charter jet — to repatriate citizens stranded in Wuhan, China following the region's coronavirus crisis.
This weekend, it was Sri Lanka's turn, and the country tapped its flagship carrier's largest plane, a SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330, for the honor of bringing students home.
SriLankan's chairman, Ashok Pathirage, shared a statement on the carrier's Facebook page:
Our nation has always relied on our National Carrier during times of crisis, be it a tsunami or a terror attack. The board of directors and every employee of SriLankan Airlines are extremely proud of the selfless efforts of our 16 crew members who volunteered to fly into Wuhan, which is currently under a lockdown, going far beyond their call of duty.
The crew members were dressed head to toe in protective gear, including full-body suits, masks, eye protection and gloves.
Even the pilots appeared to be wearing the same protective get-up, likely throughout the flight.
After a 2.5-hour stop at the seldom-used Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI), perhaps for additional passenger screening, the flight finally reached Colombo (CMB) around 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1. The aircraft, 4R-ALS, returned to service later that evening, with a scheduled passenger flight to Dammam, Saudi Arabia (DMM).
SriLankan didn't share photos of the arrival, but it's possible that passengers and crew members alike were met with a disinfectant process similar to what the above travelers landing at Indonesia's Hang Nadim Airport (BTH) faced after their own ferry flight from Wuhan.
All photos courtesy of SriLankan Airlines.