Robert Kraft: ‘It’s time for us to rally together and solve these kinds of issues’

Robert Kraft. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the phone call he received from Patriots owner Robert Kraft this week was “the only good call [he’s] gotten in about 10 days.”

“Mr. Kraft is a special man,” Cuomo said on CNN Thursday night, hours after Kraft had successfully transported over a million N95 masks from China. “What he did here was just pure generosity and goodness.”

In an effort to assist with the high demand for medical supplies, particularly personal protective equipment, Kraft employed one of the Patriots’ team planes to ferry 1.4 million masks from China to the U.S. The aircraft — or AirKraft, as it’s appropriately known as — landed Thursday evening at Boston’s Logan International Airport, where Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Patriots president Jonathan Kraft were both on hand to receive the shipment. 

“Jonathan,” Baker said. “Honestly, we can’t thank you and your dad and your family enough for answering the call and helping us make this happen.”

Robert Kraft said on CNN later that evening that Baker and Jonathan, who is also board chair at Massachusetts General Hospital, have “a close relationship.” According to Kraft, Baker had asked Jonathan for assistance in delivering the masks because the process has proven to be difficult.

In early March, Baker requested 795,000 masks and received only 125,000. He has previously expressed his frustration with getting outbid by the Trump administration when trying to acquire supplies, but to no avail. After a recent order of 3 million masks was confiscated at the Port of New York, Baker began pursuing direct humanitarian delivery options.

“We happened to have a little plane that we use for our team that was idle,” Kraft said. “Our crew who flew probably more hours than they should have, but they knew how important it was.”

With approval from the Chinese government and assistance from Tencent’s Martin Lau, among others, the mission was a success. Kraft noted there was “a lot of red tape” but credited the cooperation of state, national, and international entities.

Among the hurdles were upgrading the plane, a Boeing 767, with the necessary software; notifying the Federal Aviation Administration so that various crew requirements could be waived; and acquiring a landing permit to safely touch down in China. The pilots and crew members also required visas.

“This probably was the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do,” Kraft said.

The masks will be distributed to hospitals in both Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York. Kraft, who attended Columbia University, spoke with Baker about sharing the resources with New York. Manhattan’s Javits Center is scheduled to receive 300,000 of the masks Friday morning.

Said Kraft: “I love it — a Republican governor, a Democratic governor, putting the country first.”

Added Cuomo: “For a governor to say, ‘I’ll help another state besides my state,’ that really says something about his character. It’s heartwarming. It’s much-needed as everybody knows. These masks are so rare and so necessary.”

Kraft encouraged others to work together during the country’s time of need.

“This is the greatest country in the world,” he said. “It’s time for us to rally together and solve these kinds of issues.”


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