An emergency flight heading to China is just a few hours away from arriving in the devastated country and one step closer to bringing our Kiwis home.
The special charter Air New Zealand flight, NZ6001, passed over the top of Australia just before 6.30am, according to information on Flight Radar.
The aircraft left Auckland overnight and is due in Hong Kong in a few hours to pick up a cabin crew before flying to Wuhan - ground zero of the deadly coronavirus outbreak - to evacuate more than 70 New Zealanders.
A number of Australian and Pacific Island citizens stuck in the city are also among those invited to board the flight, which is expected to arrive in Auckland tomorrow at 4.15pm.
The total number of people on the passenger manifest is not yet known, but the aircraft has the capacity to hold up to 300 people.
FIVE PILOTS AND 11-STRONG CABIN CREW ASSIGNED
Air New Zealand's chief flight operations and safety officer, chief pilot Captain David Morgan, said they had five pilots and a standard 11-strong cabin crew involved in the operation.
"The feelings are very positive and particularly pleased to be able to be assisting these Kiwis and people from other nations in getting out of Wuhan.
"They're all volunteers and they're just very pleased on behalf of Air New Zealand to be able to do this for these people who, undoubtedly, will be keen to get out of Hubei Province."
He said the team of pilots included one dubbed the "mission commander" - who will oversee the whole operation - and an extra pilot assigned for fatigue management.
The cabin crew involved are all very experienced and highly trained in regard to dealing with passengers who may be unwell.
Although, that was considered a low risk issue given all passengers were screened twice. Anyone who is feeling unwell is not allowed to board.
The crew will be wearing masks and gloves and a special cleaning protocol for high-touch surfaces will be in place during the course of the flight.
Other than that, the flight would be as normal. Passengers will get a meal, they could watch movies and would be free to walk around the aircraft.
Asked what the mood would be like in the cockpit, in particular, Morgan summed it up in one word: "Professional."
"They've been given a task to do by the Government. We've spent four days working with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Civil Aviation to make sure that every aspect of this flight is safe - not only for the aircraft but also for the crew and, in particular, the passengers on board.
"It's a very professional approach - clear about what the task is and what success looks like.
"But underlying that, a real sense of accomplishment once we've achieved the outcome for these people."
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New Zealand's move to evacuate its citizens comes as a Qantas flight sent to bring home Australians in Wuhan arrived back in Australia yesterday evening. More than 240 people made up of citizens and permanent residents arrived at a military base in Western Australia ahead of a trip to take the evacuees to Christmas Island, where they will be quarantined for 14 days.
CORONAVIRUS 'NOT A CHINESE ISSUE'
Meanwhile, an Auckland primary school has sent a clear message to its staff and school community - that racism would not be tolerated.
In a notice sent to parents via its website, Pakuranga's Sunnyhills School principal Justine Driver said this was "not a Chinese issue".
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She wrote that children would continue to be taught not just the importance of hygiene, but also the need for an inclusive community where all cultures are valued and respected.
"It is really important to us that you - as parents - talk to your children in a calm and reassuring way when discussing hygiene and it is of utmost importance that our Chinese community feel supported at this time.
"I wish to acknowledge and thank our Chinese community for being proactive and helpful and I wish to reassure them on behalf of the wider school community and staff that we will NOT be making this a Chinese issue.
"Novel coronavirus is a global concern."
It comes as police in Canterbury are investigating after multiple parents at a school in Rolleston received an email telling them to keep their children at home - "because you Asians are virus spreaders".
"Our Kiwi kids don't want to be in the same class as your disgusting virus spreaders," the email said.
The message was later posted to a message board on social media site WeChat after it caused upset among those who received the email.