Kalitta converts freighter into pax configuration for Wuhan evacuation ops

Kalitta Air N703CK

A Kalitta Air 747-400BCF similar in size to the aircraft used to evacuate Americans from Wuhan, China.  (Photo/Kalitta Air)

Kalitta Air temporarily installed passenger seats on one of its 747-400Fs in order to evacuate more than 200 Americans from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the new coronavirus. The aircraft (26413, ex-Korean Air) was chartered by the U.S. State Department.

At numerous MRO sites around the world, aircraft that previously operated in passenger configuration can be found in various stages of a modification process that will enable the aircraft to take to the skies again as freighters. As this week’s flight reveals, the reverse is also possible.

After having seats on pallets fitted to its rails, unit 27413 was deployed from Oscoda (OSC) on Jan. 26, and arrived in Wuhan (WUH) on Jan. 28 via Anchorage (ANC) and Seoul (ICN). The 747 picked up passengers and departed WUH in the early hours of Jan. 29. It made a stop in ANC and then finally arrived at Riverside March Air Reserve Base (RIV) this morning.

Despite the passenger charter, Kalitta’s focus remains on freight. In recent months, Kalitta has made adjustments to its sizable fleet of large widebody freighters. It recently sold off three 747-200Fs, and last year added the 777F platform. The carrier continues to add 767Fs, both to its own fleet, and on a CMI basis, for DHL Express. The most recent addition, a 767-300BDSF which was redelivered in December 2019, made its first test flight around OSC on Jan. 28 and is due to begin CMI operations shortly.

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