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As Coronavirus Battle Heats Up, KLM Re-enlists Two Stored 747-400 Combi For Cargo Missions

A KLM Boeing 747-400M Combi Landing In LAX

On April 9th 2020 Dutch carrier KLM announced it was re-enlisting the services of two of its Boeing 747-400M Combi it had parked previously. The news brought home the reality that an enduring Covid-19 global crisis was exhausting the flight availability of dedicated freighter aircraft.

For KLM Royal Dutch the news of bringing Boeing 747 back from retireent proved a stunning reversal of fortune. A month earlier, a sudden 90% collapse of passenger traffic demand caused by the global spread of the Coronavirus had prompted the carrier to immediately retire from service its remaining passenger Jumbo Jets.

As the need to move medical equipment and emergency supplies mainly from China to various parts of the world became excessive, carriers began resorting to using their idled widebody passengers aircraft (mainly Boeing 777s and 787s) to carry freight (inside belly holds and even with bulk supplies traveling in passengers cabin).

KLM found that with its three KLM/Martinair dedicated 747 freighters already operating to the maximum, two of the 10 Boeing 747-400 passengers aircraft it had already placed in storage would be perfectly equipped to immediately assume freighter missions.

In fact of the 10 Boeing 747-400 owned by KLM, five were 747-400 Combi. The Boeing 747-400M Combi is a very particular variant able to operate simultanously with both passenger and cargo on the aircraft main deck. The aircraft fuselage is split midship, aft of the main wing with passengers sitting forward and cargo loaded in the rear, with evidently a wall seperating both sections. Being factory-equipped with Boeing much vaunted Large Side Cargo door, makes the 747-400M Combi aircraft easy to integrate with pure freighter flight operations.

A deal between the Dutch government and Royal Philipps is requiring that the two Boeing 747-400M Combi that have been brought back from retirement by KLM begin connecting Amsterdam to Beijing and Shanghai, respectively twice and thrice each week from April 13th 2020, on. Thus the two aircraft would be able to ferry the 250 tonnes of cargo that are required every week.

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