Hotshot cargo flights bypass US-Canada border blockade to deliver auto parts
Automakers and major suppliers have been using hot air cargo services to airlift critical parts to facilities on both sides of the Canada-US border due to the protest blocking the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor , Ontario.
Manufacturers routinely use air cargo companies specializing in cross-border hops for emergency transportation, but activity has intensified in recent days as protesters continue to stifle North America’s largest trade crossing . The closure of the Ambassador Bridge added hours of driving time for trucks, which experience traffic jams at other border crossings.
Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Toyota have closed or reduced production at several plants due to parts shortages.
Several automakers and component suppliers are using an airlift to fly over border closures and support operations in both countries, Albert Harris, senior vice president of air charter operations for Ascent Global Logistics, told FreightWaves.
“Ascent and our charter airline, USA Jet Airlines, are involved in emergency supply chain management for multiple customers. We are deploying our Boeing fleet [727 aircraft] MD-80, DC-9 and Falcon 20 to help our customers maintain production and supply continuity,” he said.
The volume of ascent between the United States and Canada has tripled this month due to truck-led protests taking place at several border crossings and in Canadian cities. Less than 10% of Ascent’s normal business involves Canada because cross-border infrastructure is normally very efficient, he said.
Air cargo movements at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan, have increased significantly in recent years, according to an official from Odyssey Aviation, one of the two companies that operates the airport and provides services. aeronautical services.
“Right now, we are loading and unloading four planes simultaneously. It’s not normal. We see return flights every three hours,” he said when contacted on Friday evening.
Montreal-based Chrono Aviation has made several shuttle flights with a Boeing 737-200 between London International Airport in Ontario and Willow Run in the past two days, according to flight tracking service FlightRadar24.
Other air charters that arrived at Willow Run on Friday included Alaska-based Lynden Air Cargo, Ameristar, Berry Aviation with an Embraer 120 and Kalitta Charters operating a Learjet.
Expedited carriers operate aircraft ranging from single-engine piston planes to Boeing 747s. They typically operate brokerage businesses so they can also source outside aircraft that they may not have on hand to meet a particular time or load requirement.
Harris said Ascent is supplementing its normal capacity with larger planes from outside vendors at the request of automakers and suppliers. The largest planes in USA Jet’s fleet have a maximum payload of around 50,000 pounds, but Ascent sources planes that can carry up to 250,000 pounds.
Customs officers on both sides of the border are doing their part to ease trucking headaches by temporarily allowing shippers on both sides of the border to redirect shipments to other ports of entry without having to redo their paperwork.
Dan Hearsch, managing director of AlixPartners and supply chain expert, said he’s heard of another workaround in which some suppliers are removing pallets from large trucks and putting them into expedited vans that are allowed through the tunnel. Detroit-Windsor.
Police in Windsor, Ont., began efforts on Saturday to evict protesters who were blocking commercial traffic at the Ambassador Bridge.
Air Charter 911
These, and other carriers, are the supply chain fire department of automakers and Tier 1 suppliers who routinely provide interim transportation to avoid downtime and significant financial loss.
“If you don’t get your product to their dock on time and their assembly plant shuts down, you, the supplier, could face chargebacks of up to $2,000 to $4,000 per minute for every minute of shutdown because your product is missing from the process,” Andrew Downs, who ran an air taxi charter company before selling it last year, said in an interview at an air freight conference two years ago. year.
Fast-track air charter companies can often have a plane in the air in less than an hour.
“We bring in just enough product until the normal modes of transportation — trucking, LTL, hot trucking and sometimes rail — can catch up,” Downs said.
He described a case where his company had to transport a roll of stickers from Montreal to El Paso, Texas on a Learjet because the axles crossing the Mexico border did not have the correct stamps to clear customs and were waiting. until new stickers arrive and can be affixed.
On-demand airlines also carry out truck interceptions. In these situations, road carriers will divert a truck or load to the nearest airport in the event of a major weather event, traffic jam or breakdown and the carrier will steal and take enough parts to keep the production line running. market.
Airlines also rely on on-demand charter companies to transport parts and mechanics on short notice when an aircraft has a mechanical problem. Charter flights are expensive but worth it, as an aircraft not flying does not generate revenue and can cause network delays when airport connections are missed.
“We’re the service no one wants to use but needs on occasion,” Downs said.
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