Coronavirus: Emirati pilot tells of pride at flight to bring medical supplies home

Ahmed Al Ali - who usually flies passengers - left on a 25-hour mission to Shanghai

Captain Ahmed Al Ali in the cockpit on Wednesday shortly before he took off for Shanghai. Courtesy: Ahmed Al Ali
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An Emirati pilot told of his pride as he departed on a 25-hour cargo mission to bring supplies home to the UAE.

Ahmed Al Ali and his crew will pick up a shipment of medical equipment in Shanghai and return to Dubai.

The Emirates captain has flown passengers for 16 years and has now been deployed on essential cargo routes.

The father of three said he it was a proud moment for him to serve his country. He said he was not afraid of flying into a virus hotspot, though China is slowly recovering from the outbreak and the number of new cases remains low.

"We in Emirates Airline are turning our fleet to cargo to make sure nothing is missing in the UAE in regards to food, medicine or anything," said Captain Al Ali, who spoke to The National before take-off at 3pm on Wednesday.

“Today, I am flying to Shanghai, China. This is my first mission to serve my county and sacrifice by leaving home.

"This is what our leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, instilled in us – if you love your country, you will work and win."

Sheikh Mohamed has reassured citizens and residents that the country has enough supplies. Supermarkets said they remain well-stocked and have urged against needless panic buying.

The authorities said supermarkets and pharmacies should remain open 24 hours per day.

The global death toll from coronavirus has passed 18,000, with more than 420,000 confirmed cases and more than 107,000 recoveries.

In the UAE, there were a total of 248 cases and 45 recoveries as of Wednesday.

Besides Shanghai, there are Emirates cargo flights scheduled for Hong Kong, Italy, Lebanon, South Korea and Thailand.

All of the flight crew have been briefed on safety requirements, especially as they will be flying to high-risk countries.