How Patriots' Team Plane Transferred 1.2 Million N95 Masks From China to U.S.

How a request from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker had the Patriots' team plan traveling to Shenzhen, China to gather 1.2 million N95 masks.

If you were looking for your New England Patriots-related heroic story of the week, you've found it. 

Because of the shortage of N95 masks across the United States - which are used to protect healthcare workers and high-risk members of our society against COVID-19 - Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was trying to figure out a way to get the masks from China into the U.S. after he had struck a deal with China for them. That's where the Patriots stepped in.

Jonathan Kraft - President of the Patriots and a chairman of the board at Massachusetts General Hospital - was the one that initiated the idea of using the team's plane to transfer the N95 masks from China to the United States. 

A story written by Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal details the entire story in which New England's aircraft went to Shenzhen, China, where the plane could only be grounded for three hours, the crew on board the Boeing 767 could not get off the plane, and they left with 1.2 million N95 masks and three minutes to spare. 

The journey involved a trip to Ohio to make upgrades to the plane, the crew quickly making their way to a local pharmacy to take pictures for their passports, flying those pictures to the Chinese consulate in New York, then heading to Alaska and then finally to Shenzhen, China. 

"In addition to handling the logistics and the plane, the Kraft family had agreed to pay $2 million, or approximately half the cost of the goods. The order of 1.7 million N95 masks was produced by various manufacturers across the country. 'What we needed,' said Jim Nolan, who spearheaded the logistics as the COO of Kraft Sports and Entertainment, 'were boots on the ground to gather the goods and get them to the right place.'

"They needed even more than that: the products needed to be counted, inspected and then quickly ushered through customs. Through intermediaries, people familiar with the matter said, they were connected to executives at Chinese tech giant Tencent, who pledged a crew of more than a dozen people. Over the course of several days, the Tencent team mobilized to inspect and aggregate the masks. Some facilities had less than promised and were still waiting on the production to be complete. The crew stayed with the goods overnight to make sure nothing happened to them before taking them to the Shenzhen airport and shuttling them through customs."

"By early Wednesday morning on the East Coast, the Patriots’ 767 had landed in Shenzhen from Alaska. It stayed grounded for 2 hours and 57 minutes—just within the three-hour window the crew was given. Because cargo wasn’t allowed on parts of the passenger plane, only 1.2 million of the masks fit. The rest, which is being held securely by Tencent, will be transported shortly on another shipment."

However, after the crew reached their believed final destination, which was Logan International Airport in Boston, there was one last stop requested of them: New York. Because of owner Robert Kraft's history with the city, and because "he has been moved by the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the last several weeks," Gov. Baker and Robert Kraft decided to give 300,000 N95 masks to New York.