A PLANE packed with vital supplies of equipment for frontline NHS workers landed at Bournemouth Airport.
European Aviation operated the charter flight, christened ‘Nightingale 1’, which flew back from China overnight on Monday and touched down on the runway at Hurn yesterday morning.
The Airbus A340 was stocked up with personal protective equipment (PPE) for the NHS in the form of 125,000 surgical gowns.
The trip was the first of eight flights European Aviation has been chartered for to obtain PPE supplies, with more of these journeys expected to set off from the Dorset site.
Supplies of PPE will be obtained from Tianjin in China and Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, with two flights a week expected.
European Aviation founder Paul Stoddart was at Bournemouth Airport to see the plane land yesterday.
He told the Daily Echo: “I am glad it was raining because I had a tear in my eye.
“Two hundred people have given the last 17 days of their lives to make it happen. Night and day, weekends, everything.
“I know people think PPE is a struggle but they perhaps don’t realise how much goes on behind the scenes to acquire this stuff and then be able to transport it. To get permits through five countries, with places like Russia and China, they take time.
“You have also got logistical challenges of getting the stuff from the factory to get through customs and to the aircraft. That cost us 24 hours this time.
“Everybody is out there pushing and pushing. We had 14 people on the flight and they had been on the aircraft for 46 hours. They were confined in the aircraft.
“They still had smiles and tears when we opened the door.”
Mr Stoddart added: “We are supporting the NHS and the government. The government is taking a lot of stick and as somebody who has been involved on the inside, people are moving mountains.
“Everybody from the British High Commissioners in both Malaysian and China, to ministers and the NHS. It is very easy to criticise but when the going gets tough the tough get going.”
Before setting off on the outbound leg of the journey from Bournemouth Airport on Sunday, European Aviation had arranged to have a special ‘Thank You NHS’ livery placed on the aircraft’s fuselage.
Tim Cornish, European Aviation technical records officer based at Bournemouth Airport, added: “It is a fantastic opportunity for us to support the NHS. We have always liked to show ourselves as a national community and do our bit where we can to help out.
“We are very pleased to make a big part in this organisation of getting the vital PPE back into the country for the NHS and the frontline workers.”