An Airbus A400M of the French Air Force landed on the tarmac of Nantes-Atlantique airport. Onboard the exceptional flight were four patients from Lyon, a city badly affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
The transfer that took place on November 4, 2020, was made possible by the MEROPE kit. This module, specifically conceived for the A400M, can accommodate up to four patients and twenty caregivers. It allows permanent oxygenation and monitoring of patients, and if needed, in-flight medical resuscitation.
It was initially designed to transport wounded soldiers away from the battlefield, but in the last months, the A400M showed the extent of its capabilities by transferring COVID-19 patients between hospitals. “It is a duty of legitimate solidarity to relieve hospital services where the situation is extremely tense,” explained Nantes’ Regional Health Agency, quoted by Ouest France.
Through Operation Resilience that was launched in March 2020, the French armed forces have been actively contributing to the effort in fighting the spread of COVID-19. But the French Air Force was not the sole user of the A400M to airlift patients during the pandemic. In March 2020, the German Luftwaffe used the aircraft to transport hospitalized patients from Strasbourg, France, towards Ulm, Germany, in an effort to relieve the overcrowded hospitals of the French region of Alsace.
The A400M is a military transport aircraft designed by Airbus Defence and Space. It entered service in 2013, and is offered as a successor for older transporters such as the C-130 Hercules or the C-160 Transall. It is capable of transporting up to 37 tonnes of cargo or 116 soldiers with their equipment, over 4,500 kilometers.