Finnair Cargo flies Red Cross aid to the Philippines


In a response to the catastrophic typhoon in the Philippines, Finnair Cargo has transported emergency equipment for the Red Cross directly to the islands.

A cargo flight set off from Helsinki on November 18 heading east to the typhoon-hit islands of the Philippines. Routed to Cebu via a technical stop in Novosibirsk, Russia, the flight was carrying 87 tons of emergency aid equipment for the Finnish Red Cross to deliver to the disaster zone.
“The flight was operated under the ‘red call sign’ that grants all traffic rights and permits automatically,” explains Heikki Nikamaa, manager of station and freighter operations at Finnair Cargo. 
Cebu City, the oldest city in the Philippines and capital of Cebu Province, is at the heart of the island state and was in the eye of the ferocious storm that recently swept through the region. The city’s airport is a crucial transport hub for rescue and relief agencies trying to accelerate assistance to towns such as Tacloban that were completely flattened during Typhoon Haiyan. Estimates of the death toll from the typhoon vary from 3,000 to 10,000, but one thing is for certain: the survivors are in dire need of food, water and shelter.

Ready to react fast

“Finnair Cargo can offer freighter services directly to the Red Cross and also to other humanitarian organizations,” says Nikamaa. “We can provide terminal and ground handling for other airlines as well if necessary. We have a professional team that reacts very fast to all emergency operations.”
Even so, there are various challenges involved. “Capacity needs to be available and all traffic rights, permits, handling, crew and fuel need to be in place before the flight,” Nikamaa lists. 
“We were involved in operations to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, for example, and have been carrying out terminal handling for this kind of operations on many occasions in the past.”
The plane in question for the Cebu mission was a Nordic Global Airlines MD1F freighter aircraft serving Finnair Cargo routes on a regular basis. The flight had four pilots and one loadmaster on board, with handling taken care of at Helsinki by Finnair Cargo’s subcontractor Transval Oy. At Cebu, the Cross was to supervise unloading.

Vehicles, tents, medical supplies…

The load included tents, medical items and equipment for health clinic use, as well as water purification equipment contained in large plywood and aluminum boxes. Also on board were two vehicles, as well as pumps, generators and relief items such as blankets, tarpaulins and mosquito nets.

According to information provided by British air operations in the region, there were no refueling issues at Cebu’s international airport as the flight departed from Helsinki. A broker had been hired to handle custom clearance procedures, which were also functioning quickly and efficiently. “We don’t see any logistical challenges except how to get our units back into our rotation,” Nikamaa reports.

“When we get approaches like this from the Red Cross or other similar agencies, the main challenge is to have capacity and payload available."

The aircraft heads to Hong Kong after Cebu for a crew change and then flies back to Helsinki with a regular cargo bound for Scandinavia and Europe.

Text by Tim Bird
Photo by Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross

Published November 19, 2013

Category: Collaboration, Corporate Responsibility