Our very own Rickenbacker International Airport was featured in an air-cargo article of the latest edition of Airports Council International- North America’s Centerlines magazine. Here’s an excerpt:
Air Cargo Boom Provides Win-Win for Many Airports
Some airports, like Rickenbacker International in Columbus, Ohio, were built for this. Rickenbacker and John Glenn Columbus International Airport are both operated by the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. While John Glenn International saw a significant decrease in passenger traffic – down from a record-breaking 2019 of 8.6 million passengers – cargo activity surged, said Joseph R. Nardone, President and CEO of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.
“In June, we broke previously held re-cords for international cargo at Rickenbacker, reflecting the airport’s unique ability to shift gears in response to pandemic needs,” he said. “The surge was almost entirely attributable to air cargo charters bringing in personal protective equipment and other pandemic supplies for regional distribution. As PPE demand has leveled off, we saw more traditional retail and other shipments associated with the holidays. Columbus is a retail-heavy city with millions of square feet of distribution center spaces, in addition to e-commerce and store fulﬁllment centers for myriad companies.”
Rickenbacker is one of the only non-passenger hub airports seeing a deployment of passenger aircraft for cargo. “Globally, 50 percent or more of the air freight capacity resides with-in the bellies of passenger aircraft,” Nardone said. “At times there are 20 or more metric tons of extra cargo capacity in the lower holds, even with passenger baggage. When the majority of those aircraft were parked, all of that capacity came out of the market.”
Airlines adapted, removing seats or stacking cargo into the main cabin. Rickenbacker currently handles car-go-only flights on passenger aircraft from Emirates, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines and Qatar Airways, Nardone said. “These operations are very labor intensive, but it shows the flexibility of our airport authority staff at Rickenbacker, who are responsible for the loading and unloading of international freighters there, something that is uncommon in the U.S.,” he added.
Working closely with international partners to handle the converted flights “highlights our partnership with the industry and our ability to quickly innovate to meet challenges with our air freight partners,” Nardone said. “As with the West Coast port strike of 2015, this pandemic, as horrible as it is, is exposing new companies to the speed and efficiency we can offer through Columbus as an alternate to larger, more congested gateways.”
Columbus being within a 10-hour drive of half the United States and one-third of the Canadian population also made Rickenbacker an important link in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s handling of personal protective equipment.
“When a Detroit-area automotive manufacturer needed to quickly change gears to begin making ventilators, they counted on Rickenbacker to manage the shipment,” Nardone said. “A shipment of ventilator parts was flown in to Rickenbacker aboard one of our freighter flights from Asia and then airlifted by helicopter, a seamless process made possible by our nimble team.”