A million N95 masks are coming from China -- on board the Patriots’ plane

Video and pictures of the event show workers in masks and full-body suits at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport loading box after box of the scarce and valuable personal protective equipment onto a red, white and blue plane emblazoned with the Patriots logo and “6X CHAMPIONS.”

The plane was permitted to be on the ground in China for a maximum of three hours, people familiar with the matter said, and the crew was required to stay on the plane while a ground crew loaded the cargo. It took 2 hours and 57 minutes. On Thursday, that plane will land somewhere more familiar: Boston Logan International Airport.

The story of this remarkable delivery, based on documents and interviews with people involved in the operation, is a window into the frenzied scramble by states to acquire life-saving equipment needed to battle the coronavirus pandemic. The process involves not just tracking down goods, but also tapping intermediaries and calling in favors to navigate a dense global bureaucracy that the pandemic has virtually paralyzed.