MP: There were quite a few. I think the biggest was communication, which wasn’t really possible in English. But we were lucky because an ex-journalist from Radio-Canada, Jean-François Lépine, put us in contact with someone who was able to be our eyes on the ground in China and apprise us of what was happening.
After the aircraft landed at around 9 p.m., the unloading was going well until we hit a problem. The equipment that we had on-site was using fuel that discharged carbon monoxide into the cabin. We had to shut everything down and come up with a whole new way to unload.
We took some rollers — the kind you might see at the grocery store — and lined them up from the trucks all the way down to the aircraft. It’s a 42-metre-long cabin so it was a long process. We had 20 people working non-stop around the clock. When we finished unloading it was 5:15 a.m. We filled about nine ten-wheeled trucks. I think we’re going to be good for protective equipment for a while.
Nolinor planes are also delivering supplies to northern communities. Can you tell us more about that project?
Yes, so that flight took off on May 4. Two weeks ago we said we would offer a free cargo flight to Northern Canada. Food Banks Canada called us and asked if they could deliver food to Iqaluit, Nunavut. We brought 22,000 pounds of food and supplies. My understanding is that it’s going to generate 1,200 bags of groceries for people.
Why was this initiative personally important?
In my mind, the first thing you have to ask yourself in a crisis is, what can I give back? We have many aircraft that are idle right now. Our employees are paid, the insurance is covered and maintenance on the aircraft is sound — all we have to do is pay the fuel.
Did your experience at the John Molson School of Business help prepare you for this at all?
The Global Aviation MBA program gave me a better, clearer vision of how to get things done and solve problems. I think the main advantage I got from all the courses was the drive to know more, keep learning and get a better perspective on what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis.
What advice can you offer fellow members of the Concordia community at this difficult time?
If you take the risk of looking at a problem in an unorthodox way, you’ll find opportunity. At one point everybody was laying off employees in the aviation industry. We decided to retain a core of our staff, about 30 per cent, and that gave us the flexibility to be open to the unexpected — like the Antonov flight.
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