How Loading N95 Masks On Patriots Plane Was Like ‘NASCAR Pit Stop’


The New England Patriots landed in the spotlight for helping to provide coronavirus relief. But it wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed.

The Patriots, led by owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft, brought positivity to the news this week, as the team’s plane — “AirKraft” — was sent to China to bring back more than 1 million N95 protective masks to give to emergency medical workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

The effort took a great deal of coordination. In collaboration with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and, of course, China, the operation needed to adhere to a number of specifications.

No personnel were allowed to leave the plane once it landed in China — neither to help load nor tend to any potential mechanical needs — to prevent any chance of spreading the virus.

“If we had a maintenance or a tech issue, our maintenance or tech guys couldn’t have gotten off the plane to correct it,” Jonathan Kraft said Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “Once the pilots left the plane, they would need to be in quarantine for 14 days.”

To make matters even more complicated, the operation had a time limit. The plane was allowed to be on the ground for a maximum of just three hours — no matter how many masks were loaded in that span.

Simple enough, right? Yeah, not so much.

“It was like a NASCAR pit stop,” Jonathan Kraft added. “Fortunately we didn’t have any mechanical issues, and we got it done with about three or four minutes to spare and got back in the air for what was a nine-hour flight back (to Alaska).”

Ultimately, “AirKraft” landed in Boston on Thursday night. The masks already are en route to health care workers in New England, as well as New York.

Some things are bigger than football rivalries.

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Thumbnail photo via Adam Hagy/USA TODAY Sports Images

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