Patriots team plane transports more than a million N95 masks from China to U.S.

The New England Patriots team plane is loaded with N95 masks in Shenzhen, China.
(Twitter / @MassGovernor)

The New England Patriots team plane is being used to transport more than a million N95 masks, an item desperately needed by medical personnel during the coronavirus pandemic, from China to the U.S.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family handled the logistics for the deal and donated $2 million, about half the total cost for the masks, to the transaction, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“In today’s world, those of us who are fortunate to make a difference have a significant responsibility to do so with all the assets we have available to us,” Kraft said.

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It took a massive effort to get to this point, the WSJ reports. About two weeks ago, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker secured a deal for 1.7 million medical-grade masks but didn’t know how to get them from China to the U.S. Jonathan Kraft, who serves as president of his father’s team, is a longtime friend of the governor and offered the services of one of the organization’s Boeing 767 aircraft.

In addition to preparing the passenger plane for such a lengthy journey and large cargo load, permits and visas had to be acquired on extremely short notice. After the arrangements were made, the jet flew to Wilmington, Ohio, then Alaska before landing in Shenzhen, China.

“I’ve never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome,” Robert Kraft told the Journal.

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The crew was given only three hours to load the cargo. Only 1.2 million masks ended up fitting; the rest are being held in a secure location and will be shipped soon.

The plane — painted red, white and blue and featuring the Patriots logo on the side and the likenesses of six Lombardi trophies on the tail — departed China early Wednesday and is expected to arrive in Boston sometime Thursday.

“It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission,” Robert Kraft said in a statement. “We knew that purchasing greatly-needed N95 masks and providing the Patriots plane to expedite their delivery to local hospitals would immediately help protect our courageous healthcare professionals. Multiple organizations across the public and private sectors, all of which were in lockstep with Governor Charlie Baker’s visionary leadership, worked together to execute this mission with the purpose of helping save lives.

“I truly hope that in doing so, we can in some way inspire others to find creative ways to give more in support of our doctors, nurses and first responders. It’s nice to care for those who provide such compassionate care for us.”