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Feature: First-ever China-Argentina direct flight travels over 38,000 km, delivers medical supplies against COVID-19

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After flying over 38,000 km in some 56 hours, the first-ever direct flight from China to Argentina landed in Buenos Aires on Saturday, carrying urgently-needed medical supplies for tackling COVID-19.

In order to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Argentina and China set up the first-ever direct flight over the weekend to supply the South American country with much-needed medical equipment.

The first flight, landing on Saturday at the Ezeiza International Airport in the capital, delivered some 13 tons of supplies from Shanghai, including vital personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

“We are very happy, satisfied and moved,” said Governor of Buenos Aires Axel Kicillof as he welcomed the flight.

“Today the whole world knows how difficult it is to get personal protective equipment and items amid the pandemic,” Kicillof said, noting that Saturday’s cargo will be distributed to medical workers throughout the province.

The 56-hour flight, with a re-fueling stop in Auckland, was carried out by Argentina Airlines (AR), and required a crew of 12 pilots and copilots, four technicians and two dispatchers to coordinate the cargo.

Located in the southwestern hemisphere, Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina and the destination of the route, is one of the most distant cities from Shanghai, which adds challenges to set up direct flights between the two cities.

With no previous experience flying between the two countries, flight experts and technicians had to first work out the logistics of the route, which involved adapting an Airbus 330-200 passenger plane, so it could transport 84 percent more cargo than usual.

“We are very happy about these flights, which are unique and unprecedented for the company,” said AR’s President Pablo Ceriani.

The second plane took off from Argentina on Friday afternoon to pick up over 13 tons of medical cargo in Shanghai, and is expected to be back on Tuesday.

Gustavo Caponelli, commander of the second flight, told Xinhua about the challenges of the route.

“Given the type of plane and the longer distance, the flight over the (Pacific) ocean couldn’t be done as usual, but had to be closer to Easter Island and Tahiti to be able to reach New Zealand and from there direct to Shanghai,” said the pilot.

The bilateral initiative embodies the long-standing friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

“To us, the international aid is fundamental, important and necessary, because we are coping with a problem we are not familiar with,” said Caponelli.

“I believe this experience proves the importance of international cooperation, and everyone will have to more or less be of the same mind,” he added.

Carlos Gecco, also a pilot for the second flight, said “these flights are special. It’s an honor to be able to make my small contribution in this battle we are in now.”

According to the AR, another six flights are scheduled for April 20, 23 and 28 and May 4, 6 and 8.

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