Here’s Amazing Story Behind Patriots’ Plane Picking Up Masks From China

Robert Kraft has overseen the construction of an NFL dynasty, with the New England Patriots winning six Super Bowl titles over the past two decades in spite of some occasional drama that’s placed them among the most polarizing organizations in sports.

Still, nothing could’ve prepared the Patriots owner for his recent challenge amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kraft family used the Patriots’ team plane to transport more than 1 million N95 protective masks from China to the United States last week. It was a classy gesture, with the Kraft family reportedly paying roughly $2 million to help with the costs before sending 300,000 masks to New York City, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.

But the good deed wasn’t easy to execute, thanks to the number of moving parts and the amount of red tape involved. Kraft called it “probably the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do.”

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So, how exactly did the whole thing come to fruition?

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker shared the amazing story in great detail Friday on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

The first step, according to Baker, involved finding someone with global relationships who could help facilitate the purchase of the masks. The next step centered around transportation — specifically, the need for a big private plane — and that’s where the Kraft family entered the equation.

“Now, there are lots of small private planes, but if you want to get a big cargo, you need a big private plane,” Baker said, as transcribed by “As I thought about that, I remembered that the Patriots have a big private plane. So I called Jonathan Kraft and said, ‘I think I have a path to purchase a significant number of N95 masks which we really need.’ I asked the Krafts if they would be willing to spearhead the process of working with us to get the plane out of the U.S. into China and back. Eventually, it became like a humanitarian mission.

“The flight path was basically Boston to Alaska, where people sort of slept and refreshed themselves, and then Alaska to the airport in China. Then three hours on the ground, nobody got off the plane, nobody came into the plane. The only part of the plane that was open was the cargo hold, and the gear was put by a China company into the cargo hold. We had a three-hour window they permitted the plane to be on the ground. They were on the ground for two hours and 57 minutes. Then they flew back to Alaska and flew from Alaska the next day back to Boston.

“It was a lot of moving parts to that thing and a lot of people both in the U.S. and in China were very helpful in making it happen. And we really needed it.”

The whole endeavor — or “humanitarian mission,” as Baker described it — is fascinating, to say the least. It also was necessary at a time when confirmed coronavirus cases are increasing and medical supplies are decreasing.

So, hats off to the Krafts and everyone involved. Piling up Lombardi Trophies is impressive. But helping the world fight a deadly disease is even more important, more admirable and, to be fair, more difficult.

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Thumbnail photo via Adam Hagy/USA TODAY Sports Images

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