Hot zone to cold zone: Wuhan flight to Anchorage landed, now on to Air base


The massive cargo plane that evacuated 240 Americans from Wuhan, China, landed in Anchorage at about 9:25 pm on Tuesday.

Passengers were accommodated on the plane by special seats installed for the evacuation in what is normally a huge cargo bay.

What a retrofitted cargo plane looks like with “pallet seating” installed.

Upon arriving, passengers went through health screening with CDC medical professionals, and passed through U.S. Customs and border protection in the North Terminal of Ted Stevens International Airport. At this writing, that process is completed and reboarding has begun (11:30 pm Tuesday).

Adam Crum, commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, said the entire operation was a proud moment for Alaska.

“I’m exceptionally proud of the Alaska-based response. We mobilized quickly and responded with care for American citizens in need, while simultaneously protecting Alaskans,” he said.

The North Terminal is closed in the winter, and so already serves as a solid choice for keeping the passengers isolated from those in the bustling South Terminal.

[Read: Anchorage added to airports where screening occurs]

Late Tuesday, the federal government announced the flight would be diverted to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., rather than a hangar at the Ontario, Calif. International Airport, where it was originally destined. No explanation was given for the diverted flight plan.

The passengers will be quarantined at the air base to ensure none of them are carrying the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, and has killed as many as 132 people, mostly in China.

The jet, a Boeing 747-400 quad operated under charter by Kalitta Air, left Wuhan before dawn on Wednesday, China time, and landed in Alaska after 9 pm on Tuesday, Alaska time. As it pulled up to the North Terminal, several men in hazmat suits approached on the tarmac. Airport police vehicles bustled to and fro, but within an hour, the scene around the plane was calm.

Passengers who exhibit symptoms of the illness, which are similar to other flu symptoms, will be evaluated and either treated in Anchorage or at a hospital in the Lower 48; decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Since the first of the year, six cargo flights from Wuhan have landed at Anchorage. For now, cargo flights have been suspended since last Thursday.

“The airport has facilities and procedures in place. Any flights suspected of carrying passengers with communicable diseases will be isolated. All international flights and flights suspected of carrying passengers with a communicable disease are processed in the North Terminal where CDC staff and quarantine facilities are located,” said Jim Szczesniak, Airport Manager. “No flights suspected of carrying passengers with a communicable disease are processed in our main domestic terminal. The North Terminal is completely isolated from the domestic terminal and closed to the public.”


  1. If this virus came out as a result of a mistake in their “bio-warfare” tubes, we need to know and do something about it. The Chinese need to be upfront on this…..

  2. An outstanding example of the power of Government.

    Anti-Vaxxers: Are you counting on science to create a vaccine or cure for this or the next potential pandemic?
    Anti-Government Folks: Will you be depending on your Government to evacuate you or your family if you’re ever caught in a Hot Zone?
    Q-Anoners: Will you be counting on properly-educated PhDs to stop this or the next nasty virus, or would you prefer to drink MMS to fix you up?

    Face it, folks: Well-funded government, scientific progress, and a well-educated citizenry are necessary for the proper functioning and furtherance of society. This story is testament to all of those who work in the public interest, and who use their intellects in the advancement of humanity. They are to be complemented, funded, and encouraged. The closed-minded and conspiratorial thought processes that are becoming ever more ubiquitous, if left unchecked, will eventually return us to the Dark Ages. Well done to everyone who contributed to this fine effort.

  3. Deferring to airplane experts/ contagion experts on this one…
    How is cabin-air pressure equalized with outside-air pressure when landing? In other words, is potentially contaminated cabin air vented outside?
    At the terminal, how is cabin-air temperature managed; is fresh, temperature controlled air brought inside and contaminated air exhausted outside?
    What happens to potentially contaminated human waste, food containers, and utensils? How is the lot removed and disposed if contamination is suspected?
    If contamination is a critical issue, one would think –every– surface, seat knob, wheel, lever, etc., inside the aircraft must be cleaned and verifiably disinfected… apparently casual wiping with Lysol won’t do; is this true?

    • Cabin pressure would be maintained by the onboard airplane systems powered by the Aux Power Unit (APU). Even on the ground at the terminal. Not much filtration of outgoing air. All temp and A/C systems are self contained. Human wast is pumped off by a cart normally, but this flight (freighter converted to pax) is not normal. There must be some sort of self contained lavatory pallet loaded along with the seat pallets. I suspect one reason they used a freighter was because how easy (relative to pax airplanes) it would be to decontaminate it.

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