American Airlines opens new cold storage facility in Philadelphia

American has a new cold cargo center in Philadelphia. Photo: American Airlines. 

American has a new cold cargo center in Philadelphia. Photo: American Airlines. 

A couple of years ago, I spent an evening with Lufthansa Cargo at Los Angeles International Airport, and I learned the most important rule for transporting perishable cargo: You must never break the cold chain. 

If an item, whether it's a strawberry for a pharmaceutical, must be kept cold at all times, ground staff must ensure it never sits in the sun, even for a few minutes. 

I bring this up because American Airlines recently opened a new $5 million, 25,000 square foot temperature-controlled warehouse at Philadelphia International Airport. Previously, according to the Delaware County Daily Times, the cold facility shared space in a larger facility nearby. 

In California, we see a lot of produce transported worldwide, but the Philadelphia facility was designed more to handle pharmaceuticals. It is expected to process vaccines, blood products, gene therapies, tissues, insulin and immunotherapies, according to Philly.com.

Tom Grubb, American's "manager of cold chain strategy" - yes, that's a real title -  told the Daily Times: "The two main goals are that the products remain safe and then remain effective."

Philly.com noted that Philadelphia is an excellent location for such a facility. 

Medications manufactured in Europe ... come through Philadelphia, where they are kept temporarily in cold storage, and transferred on other aircraft to Miami, and onward to South America. American's cargo customers include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pfizer, Merck, Astra Zeneca, Novartis, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Ivax, American said. The drugmakers work with freight forwarders to manage their cold-storage logistics serving markets around the world. 

Here are some of the new center's highlights, according to American:

▪ 6,000 square feet for Control Room Temperature (CRT) passive shipments at +15°C and +25°C

▪ 3,000 square feet that maintain a +2°C to +8°C cold (COL) environment

▪ A deep frozen area (FRO) for shipments between -10°C and -20°C

▪ A zoned active container management (ACM) area with powered charging stations for up to 30 electronically controlled units

▪ Advanced technology for 24/7 monitoring of products, including proactive alarming, validated to 0.25°C

▪ Full backup power generators in the event of a power failure