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Aircraft company owned by Ennis man to fly 70 tonnes of PPE to Ireland

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An Irish aircraft leasing company founded by an Ennis man will fly its second batch of PPE to the country this Friday.

Last Tuesday, an aeroplane filled with medical cargo landed at Dublin Airport having flown all the way from China including personal protective equipment (PPE). The plane belonged to Avolon which was founded by Domhnall Slattery. He is CEO of the company which classes itself as one of the biggest aircraft lessors in the world.

“We were trying to figure out how we could make a different to the front-line,” he said of what inspired their thinking. “What we can do is bring one of our aircraft that we own which is currently sitting on the ground in China not flying because of restrictions, let’s find a way to fill it up with cargo in terms of the medical cargo”.

A ten day turnaround resulted in the landing at Dublin Airport, among its cargo were forty ventilators, a quarter of a million masks, over a million exam gloves, 40,000 goggles worn by doctors and nurses in ICU. “All in all about 20 tonnes of cargo that we were able to donate and pull together and use our aeroplane to fly across the world,” Domhnall explained. The collaborative effort also included the efforts PCH’s Liam Casey and the HSE.

Question marks had previously been raised of the quality of PPE being flown into Ireland from China. The NUIG graduate admitted, “We know nothing about PPE and the procurement thereof. There was a lot of coverage over the last weekend over the quality of a lot of the stuff coming in, over the last few days in China we worked really hard with our team to make sure our cargo that we acquired and procured had all of the necessary quality stamps but you never know until you get here. We believe we bought the best we could source with the right and best quality, hopefully the front-line staff we’re able to benefit from it directly”.

Avolon are determined to fly more medical supplies and equipment into Ireland from China. They have secured a 787 aircraft with a cargo capacity that can carry more than 70 tonnes of PPE. The cost of such a charter is €350,000, it took four days to raise this sum of money in a fundraising appeal on their website with donations ranging from €10 to “thousands and thousands of euros.” securing the funds in such a short period of time was “beyond my wildest dreams”.

“It’s in times like these that Irish people have always stood up, I think it’s in our nature and they asked what to do to help, that is what is happening in real-time. We decided on the run that we would do it again but perhaps in a more significant way by bringing a much bigger aircraft that had much more significant cargo capacity and that is what we’re doing, next Friday we’re hoping it will land, it’s a 787, it has three times the cargo capacity of the aeroplane last week and I’ve just got off a call from Liam and his team in China, that aircraft will be packed to the rafters with PPE of the highest quality. Working with the HSE on the ground, we’re ensuring that all of the PPE on that aeroplane is of the highest quality and that’s really important,” Domhnall said on Monday.

He added, “It’s locked and loaded, the charter is coming, we’ve confirmed the PPE with Liam, the team and the HSE. It will be here on Friday, the HSE will pick it up at Dublin Airport the minute we land and it will go straight to their distribution centre and to the front-line to the doctors, nurses, hospitals and nursing homes all over the country. Having spent the last thirty years of my life in business pushing paper, this is the most important thing I think I’ve done in thirty years to be able to make it happen”.

When assessing the aviation business at present, Slattery confessed that it was in “absolute complete turmoil, I’ve never seen anything as bad in my career”. The past pupil of Ennis National School and St Flannan’s College said, “Being able to do this now is a relief from the stress of what is going on in the coalface of our own business, it’s been quite cathartic to be able to do this and step back from the hassles we’re facing in the business, it is pretty deep and catastrophic in many respects”.

While tackling the crisis, Domhnall was adamant Ireland has come out well. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, we are all cocooning and self-isolating but at the end of the day, the world will get through this and Ireland most definitely will get through it. What we’ve done as a nation in our tiny little project, we’ve shown the world yet again that our ability to help when the chips are down are unparalleled globally and we can hold our high in the world for a long time”.

U2 have donated €10m to support healthcare workers during the pandemic. It is said to be part of the initiative launched by Avolon.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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