French Air Force and Bertelsmann Are Among The Unsung Heroes of Pandemic.
You might not know that there is a small population of 6,300 French citizens on two islands about 20 miles southwest of Newfoundland, Canada. The hardy residents of Saint Pierre and Miquelon live in a “Territorial Collective” that is a part of France. It’s rarely in the news but did have some exposure through the 2001 Film The Widow of Saint Pierre starring Juliette Binoche looking rather glamorous in a remote fishing community.
It’s not easy to get to either. In recent years there have been direct flights between Paris and Saint Pierre on 737s—summers only, plus turboprop flights to Canada. In the meantime, a batch of 9,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine (enough to fully vaccinate 4,800 inhabitants) needed quick transport to the islands in special cold-storage containers.
I’m happy to report that the vaccine arrived March 20th on a Falcon 2000 operated by the French Air Force flying from the air base at Villacoublay near Paris. On board was Madame Annick Girardin, Minister of Overseas France. To set the example for anyone hesitant about the vaccine, she received the first shot in Saint Pierre.
Meanwhile, our customer Bertelsmann, the German conglomerate, has made 100 flights supporting French government distribution of the vaccine. These missions were more logistically complex and time sensitive. The vaccine had to be delivered to the end destination within ten hours.
For each delivery run, Bertelsmann positioned a Paderborn, Germany-based 2000LXS at Dassault Falcon Service at Le Bourget. Quantities of the BioNtech Pfizer vaccine were delivered to the aircraft from a cold storage site outside of Paris. The plane then hopscotched its way south, flying first to Bordeaux (one hour), then to Bastia in Corsica (1.5 hours) and then across the island to Ajaccio (.5 hours). Ground stops were well orchestrated and kept to about 30 minutes. No refueling was required due to the LXS’s range capability. All missions were conducted under secrecy protocols and the vaccine was transported to and from the plane under police escort.
Marcus Brunninger, head of Bertelsmann’s flight department and chairman of Dassault’s Operator Advisory Board, tells me that every organization involved in this delivery chain executed with precision and professionalism. And every pilot involved was thrilled to contribute to defeating the virus.
I am delighted byevery story of Dassault family membersplaying a role in the battle against Covid-19, some of which I have related in previous columns. I thought you would enjoy hearing about them, too.
Senior Vice President, Worldwide Falcon Customer Service & Service Center Network