How pilots operate cargo flights on passenger aircraft

With a frightening drop in passenger numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines are having to think up new ways to keep revenue coming in. Even though very few passengers are still flying, thousands of tons of cargo still need moving to keep food on tables, drugs in hospitals and toilet paper in bathrooms. While the world has shut down, global supply chains still need to be kept running.

To do this, many airlines are using their passenger aircraft to fly freight exclusively. Some flights just use the cargo holds, others are using the space on seats and overhead lockers to load bulky, lighter items. Some aircraft, like the 787 Dreamliner, are even specialised to carry temperature-sensitive cargo such as vaccines.

From cooking our own meals to arming the emergency evacuation slides, operating a passenger aircraft as a freighter requires a considerable change of procedures from the pilots.

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