Airbus test flight from Helsinki-Vantaa to Kabul was loaded with 500 Red Cross family tents

Mari Vehkalahti / Suomen Punainen Risti
Airbus A330 test plane being loaded at Helsinki-Vantaa airport
Image: Mari Vehkalahti / Suomen Punainen Risti

Tents provided by the Finnish Red Cross offer shelter to families that lost their homes due to draught and flash floods in Afghanistan.

Aid supplies have been sent out to the world from Finland on an Airbus test flight only once before. In 2013, a field hospital was delivered from Finland to Jordan. The Airbus A330 test plane left for Kabul early in the morning of Tuesday 14 May. Sending this air cargo is free of charge for the Red Cross. 

People in Afghanistan in extreme distress

People in Afghanistan have long been suffering from severe drought, which has ruined farmlands, killed livestock and forced thousands of people to leave their homes. In February 2019, sudden heavy rains caused flash floods on the dry and hard ground, destroying people’s homes and livelihoods. 

The drought and floods further impair the chances of the people who are already at their limits due to decades of conflict, driving them to become dependent of humanitarian aid. It is currently estimated that 6.3 million people in Afghanistan are in need of humanitarian aid. 

The tents sent to Afghanistan are funded with the Finnish Red Cross’s Disaster Relief Fund. The tents are five-person family tents and can provide shelter for approximately 2,500 people who have lost their homes.  

Airbus and the Red Cross working together 

Airbus and the Red Cross prepared the test flight together well in advance. Before the test plane arrived, the tents were loaded onto trucks at the Finnish Red Cross’s logistics centre in Kalkku, Tampere, from where they were transported to Helsinki-Vantaa. 

– When the Airbus A330 test plane arrived at Helsinki-Vantaa airport on Monday at approximately 4 pm, loading the tents onto the plane was started. One tent weighs 56 kg, which adds up to a total of 28,000 kilograms of cargo, says Ari Mäntyvaara, logistics coordinator at the Finnish Red Cross. 

According to a cooperation agreement between Airbus and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Airbus’s test planes can be used for humanitarian purposes. The flights are funded by Airbus Foundation. 

– The cooperation with Airbus leads to significant savings in the transportation costs of aid supplies and enables their swift delivery to the recipients. We hope that we will be able to have similar cooperation with Airbus in our future operations as well, says Tiina Saarikoski, head of international disaster aid at the Finnish Red Cross.