Tag Archives: disaster

Landing slots and priorities–Managing aircraft flow in Haiti


By Paul F. Bove, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

U.S. Air Force Colonel John Romero, chief of Air Mobility Division for the 612th Air Operations Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, A.Z.; Lieutenant Colonel Brad Graff, 601st Air Operations Center, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida; and Major Dave Smith, U.S. Air Force were on the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable on 21 January to discuss how Airmen are managing the flow of aircraft into Haiti. With the recent boom of humanitarian flights going into and out of the Port au Prince Airport, missions have increased to approximately 140 per day (at an airport capable of handling approximately 50 per day).

The airstrip capabilities being implemented in Haiti make up what is now called the Haiti Flight Operation Coordination Center (HFOCC) and are based on lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These practices are allowing the Air Force to safely and effectively manage inbound and outbound flights so that aid can arrive in the safest, most efficient manner.

It is apparent that there are major difficulties in coordinating all the relief flights that want to come into Port au Prince. Col. Romero said that Air Mobility in Davis-Monthan is “focusing on getting the right things at the right time into the airport in Haiti to support the Haitian government and the people of Haiti.” The “right things” include numerous requests of support from NGOs who want to bring supplies, doctors and other people to help.  Col. Graff stated, “As far as how many requests we’re getting, all I can tell you is that our phones are ringing off the hook continuously 24/7. The ramp is being fully utilized 24/7. So the demand for the ramp is continuous and insatiable.”

The use of designated slot times and shipment priorities, as decided by the Haitian government, play heavily into the scheduling of flights. Factor in the limited capabilities of the airstrip and there is a lot of room for failure.

To ensure success, the HFOCC is enforcing landing time slots. Organizations, including the military and anybody else who wants to fly in, must have a landing slot. “What we were having was everyone wanted to get in and they couldn’t, but they came anyway,” said Col. Romero. He likened it to JFK Airport suddenly having twice as many flight wanting to land even though the additional planes never called to say they were arriving.

Col. Romero continued, “I understand everyone thinks they have the number-one priority, but not everyone truly does have the highest priority. And you have to rack and stack those, and that’s why we depend on the Haitian government there to work with the Joint Taskforce and the U.N. Mission so that we make sure we get the right prioritized cargo and we can schedule those folks with the right slot times at the right times to get into Port-au-Prince.”100119F-7951C-104

To reiterate the point, Col. Graff said, “We’re not trying to bar people or limit the field. Far from it. We’ve tripled the flow through that field. So your chances of getting in are better now than ever. You just do need to follow the procedures that are in place. We don’t like to think of ourselves as limiting that airfield; we like to think of ourselves as facilitator that are allowing things, the proper agencies, allowing people to get in there in a more timely manner.”

Ultimately, the successful airfield management of the HFOCC will allow for the Haitians to receive the aid and support they currently need.


Photo 1: U.S. citizens living in Haiti evacuate from Troussaint Louverture International Airport, on board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III on Jan. 18, 2010. An earthquake devastated much of the capital city, Port au Prince. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

Photo 2: U.S Army PFC Keenan Roberts, Second Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne, removes supplies from a U.S. Navy helicopter at the airport in Port au Prince, Haiti, on Jan.19, 2010, during Operation Unified Response. This operation, led by U.S. Agency for International Development, is part of the U.S. Department of Defense effort to provide aid and relief to Haitian citizens affected by the Jan. 12, 2010, 7.0 magnitude earthquake here. (U.S. Air Force photo by. Tech. Sgt Prentice Colter)

Dispatch from an Airman in Haiti– “One life at a time”

Chief Master Sergeant Tyler Foster is the Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs deployed chief of operations at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti.  He and his team are supporting U.S. Southern Command relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the nation.

USAF medics care for injured HaitianThere is no “easing” into the day here at the military encampment at the Port au Prince airport.  Navy and Marine helos hit the deck here at 0630 sharp.  There’s no snooze button on that alarm.  You roll out of your cot, put the same uniform on that you’ve worn for the last 3 or 4 days.  Does it stink?  Who knows, everyone is in the same boat.  This ain’t no formal dinner.  These are bare base operations.  Our focus is mission.  Our mission is saving lives.

Bleary-eyed Airmen migrate toward the port-o-lets then off to their work space: a table, a steel chair, the flightline, the rubble of a building.  There’s no complaining.  You grab a cup of joe if it’s ready.  Otherwise, it’s water.  Water all day every day to keep hydrated.

You learn to tune out the incessant and essential cacophony the ever-busy flightline offers.  The word “noisy” doesn’t do this environment justice.  At times it is deafening.  The hum of the flightline means life saving supplies, equipment and personnel are on their way to the Haitian citizens who need them.  One life at a time.  That’s all we can do.  Save one life at a time.

Photo Cutline:  U.S. Air Force Medics, Master Sgt. Douglas Brook and Tech. Sgt Nicholas Wentworth, Air Force Special Operations Command, perform urgent medical care to a Haitian man at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport, Haiti on  Jan. 18, 2010. The man was injured in an earthquake that rocked the country on Jan. 12, 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

Images of Haiti earthquake relief effort

Below are some photos from our Airmen who have deployed to assist in the humanitarian effort in Haiti. This is just a small sampling. Be sure to check out the Air Force Flickr page for more photos and many more to come. Want even more photos? Visit Defense Imagery.


U.S.Air Force personnel from the 621st Contingency Response Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., off load cargo from a Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., C-17 Globemaster III, Jan. 15, 2010, at the Port-au-Princce airport in support relief efforts to Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts) (Released)


Tents on the edge of the runway at the Port-au-Prince airport, Haiti, provide shelter to U.S. military personnel participating in the relief effort in Haiti after a devastating earthquake, Jan. 15, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts) (Released)


An aerial view of the damaged Presidential Palace in Haiti from a U.S. Air Force Global Hawk unmanned aircraft Jan. 14. Aerial images are providing U.S. military planners valuable situation awareness as they coordinate U.S. military support to the Haiti relief effort. (Release by U.S. Southern Command)

Air Force’s management of Haiti airport essential to humanitarian operations

by Paul F. Bove, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

On Thursday, Jan. 14, U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Daniels, director of operations for the 720th Operations Support Squadron and Lt. Col. Brett J. Nelson, Commander of the 23d Special Tactics Squadron (23 STS), 720th Special Tactics Group (720 STG), Hurlburt Field, Fla., participated in the DoD Blogger’s Roundtable (listen here). They were online to discuss the U.S. Air Force’s role in opening the Port au Prince airport, the only airstrip in Haiti, after its tower collapsed during the recent earthquake. The 720th is also playing an integral part in supporting overall humanitarian operations. They are accomplishing this with a triple capability approach that includes 1) airfield, 2) medical, and 3) weather.

HurlburtThe STS and STG teams, which fall under Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), arrived around 8:00PM EST on January 13 and immediately established 24-hour control of the damaged airport so that planes could continue to fly in and out. This was no small task because the airport had been in a state of disarray with flight coming and going with little planning. Security forces also helped secure the airport perimeter and there have been no breaches thus far.

LtCol Nelson clarified that recent reports of the airport being closed are not true. “We have experienced a significant slowdown primarily due to the support capacity in Port au Prince. Specifially, the ability to process aircraft and the cargo they’re bringing in. There are only two fuel trucks and two towbars available at Port au Prince airport,” said LtCol Nelson. Therefore, if a plane needs to be moved around or fueled, processing takes much longer. LtCol Nelson stated that at one point there were 44 aircraft on the ground but the air staff continued to make progress in getting them in and out of the airport. Reports of the airport needing to be closed due to darkness are also untrue because the lighting is working and portable lights were also brought along.

LtCol Nelson verified that the pararescumen conducted “a number of collapsed structure rescues in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and are counting seven specific rescues through that process.” The team will continue to work on prioritization with the U.S. Embassy so as to be placed in the most urgent areas first. hurl2

Prioritization is also necessary to the ability to process cargo and the 720th  is working with the FAA to establish priorities so that the most urgent capabilities and supplies are brought into Port au Prince at the right time.

At this point, the 23d STS and and 720 STG have successfully taken control of the Port au Prince airport and are now focusing on marshaling and parking airplanes, maximizing how many can be on the airstrip at one time, and making sure that planes can land and take off. The successful management of the airport will be necessary for humanitarian aid as planes will need to fly in and out to bring supplies and fly out the injured. The 621st Contingency Response Wing from McGuire AFB deployed late this afternoon to Haiti to expand and oversee the airport ramp capabilities at Port au Prince and provide support to the 23 STS and 720 STG.

For more information about the Air Force’s participation in the Haiti Earthquake relief effort, visit http://www.af.mil/humanitarianrelieftohaiti/index.asp.  For a compilation of official U.S. Government Twitter accounts following Haiti relief, click here.

Photo Credits (top to bottom):

Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen load onto an MC-130H Combat Talon II before departing for Haiti, Jan. 13, 2010.  These Airmen will participate in the U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Loken/Released)

U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Chuck Massing, a C-130 loadmaster assigned to the 6th Special Operations Squadron Hurlburt Field, Fla., unloads gear to be loaded onto a C-130E before departing for Haiti, Jan. 13, 2010. Airmen assigned to the 1st SOW will be part of a U.S. humanitarian relief mission to the earthquake stricken country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason Epley/Released)