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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:26 am 
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I'm sure most of us have been following the terrible events in Haiti this last week, and may have come across the bottleneck issue at the airport where aircraft carrying supplies are being refused permission to land.

This was made more stark for me today by this report on our ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2797083.htm

The author, with Médecins Sans Frontières, who are doing much good work on the ground there says:
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It is extremely frustrating for patients and aid workers to know that we have managed to get skilled doctors, surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses as well as support staff on the ground who know what is needed to save lives - but that the supplies necessary are circling in planes above their heads without permission to land.


Obviously I don't have the details or understanding of the problems there, but I'm surprised that managing to set up an emergency airport has proven such an issue - essentially I'm guessing for the American military. I was wondering how it might compare, or differ, in how the Berlin airlift was managed - beyond the obvious differences. Naively perhaps, i'd assumed that the US had the generators, controllers, kit and 'knock-down' kit to set up an airfield infrastructure - but maybe they do and it just can't be modified straightforwardly to civilian compatibility? Is it as simple as getting fuel in to get aircraft out?

Obviously this is not meant as a criticism in any way of the tremendous effort being put in by the US or the others to the relief effort, but it's just someone interested in the terrible challenge and mentally contrasting it with the Berlin effort when aircraft were smaller, slower, lighter, less 'efficient' yet a city was kept alive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade

I know many of our posters have expert and firsthand knowledge of these kind of issues - please give us your input.

Insights, comment and feedback wanted,

Thanks,

[PS - I've put this in the main forum both for the greater traffic here and because I'm interested in the historical contrasts and maybe views with Berlin or other historic airlifts.]

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:46 am 
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For the most basic levels here's the problems that didn't exist in Berlin -

1) Distance. Miami (nearest large airport) to Port Au Prince is 620nm. Munich to Berlin is 251nm. Much different amount of fuel needed, especially considering they were using pistons versus now primarily jets (thus volume of fuel used is higher). In addition, for flights heading to Haiti, there are few divert airfields requiring more fuel to be loaded to ensure that if they can't get into PAP, they can go somewhere else safely.

2) Physical infrastructure. PAP is smaller than any of the Berlin airports used. Thus, having enough parking space is an issue. In addition, PAP can't handle much more than a DC-8 sized aircraft and then they take up a lot of the ramp. This really limits how much "heavy airlift" can be utilized to make up for the lack of space on the ground and limits what can get in due to the distance (refer to #1)

3) Public Opinion. With the Berlin airlift we were just finishing WWII, we were facing a defined enemy, and public opinion was demanding the military intervene. Now, we are fighting 2 wars (although airlift demands have relaxed somewhat), but public opinion is not as demanding now to throw everything we have at this problem.

In addition there is the "perception" of the "Big Bad USA" exerting it's will on others (said sarcastically) but it is a pressure that is exerted and is unfortunately considered when anything big like this comes around. In addition the current President has stated he wants the UN to lead these kinds of things, so he's waiting for the UN to tell him to throw everything at the problem - something they haven't done.

In short - if we wanted to, we could do a lot more than we are, but the political realities and political beliefs of the current government makes it very unlikely that we will do it. After hearing last night from several Reservists and Guardsmen, it's apparent to me at least that there is at least some level of frustration on the issue.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:49 am 
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Hi JDK -

This is not a U.S. Territory and as such, the U.S. Military cannot control the situation unless invited to do so. Supposedly the U.N. is either in control (sort of an oxymoron typing that!) or what's left of the Haitian government is. Either way, neither is allowing for a stronger U.S. role in managing the situation other than Navy and Marines supply from offshore. Yes, USAF C-17s and C-130s are flying in but are part of the traffic instead of directing it. I also understand there is really only the main airport and little else where as Berlin had multiple airports and even a lake (used by RAF Sunderlands) for delivering goods to Berlin. Now that it has been a week, I would think that shipping would start making an impact on delivery of goods, construction equipment, etc. but I have heard/read little on how the ports were damaged or otherwise impacted by the original earthquake or today's 6.1 event.

Yesterday's news around here noted that Venezuela and France are griping that the U.S. is "occupying" the country. I can expect that from Chavez but the French? When they can show up with the carriers, helicopters and airlift to make a positive impact on the situation, then they can comment. Until then, just zip it.

Enjoy the Day! Mark


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:16 am 
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On Sunday a USAF Air Traffic Control Squadron came in and essentially took over the field as far as ATC was concerned.

The issue with planes circling was due to the lack of fuel on the field, and the mandate that every flight in had to arrive with enough fuel on board to take off again. Some arriving flights did not meet that criteria and were refused landing permission.

The field at PAP can handle 747-sized aircraft, but ramp space is limited, so parking is a problem. Until recently there were not enough unloading capability to turn aircraft around quickly enough to generate enough ramp space for all the flights arriving.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:20 am 
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RareBear wrote:
On Sunday a USAF Air Traffic Control Squadron came in and essentially took over the field as far as ATC was concerned.

The issue with planes circling was due to the lack of fuel on the field, and the mandate that every flight in had to arrive with enough fuel on board to take off again. Some arriving flights did not meet that criteria and were refused landing permission.

The field at PAP can handle 747-sized aircraft, but ramp space is limited, so parking is a problem. Until recently there were not enough unloading capability to turn aircraft around quickly enough to generate enough ramp space for all the flights arriving.

Walt



Is that a 747 loaded with passengers or with Cargo. How about a fully ladened C-5 A ? Is airial refulling being used to alleviate time on the ground?

They eat up a lot of ramp space and turn around time.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:27 am 
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The 747 was a China Airlines cargo aircraft, carrying relief supplies.

I got the impression from the reports I was reading that the problem was created when flights began arriving with no coordination from anyone on the ground. They just showed up and then couldn't get unloaded in a timely manner. That's when the USAF decided enough was enough and sent the ATC sqdn.

The Berlin Airlift was a planned and orchestrated event from the beginning. Just the opposite with the PAP activity, until just recently.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:41 pm 
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This is a very interesting topic and it's fascinating to look at the differences between the two. Clearly the situation at PAP is an entirely different beast to that of the Berlin Airlift.

It's a terrible, terrible shame what happened in Haiti and it's annoying that there is so much arguing about who's in charge, who should do what.... and blaming... I applaud the US military for being a major presence in Haiti. If not them, who?

Sure, technically the UN is in charge, but it would be 2014 before they decide a course of action. I wish the UN would be a more efficient and effective organization, but that seems like a lot to ask. So, good on the US for taking initiative.

Anyways, is there any chance that they can be enough fuel brought to PAP in order to make the airport more usable and have less restrictions on inbound airplanes?

And, are air drops a practical alternative to having to land airplanes? Or would that be too much of a nightmare trying to protect the drop zones?

Peace,

David


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:48 pm 
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We have had a LOT of activity out of MacDill, being a tanker wing AND CentCom. Guess Homestead is very busy too, guess they are glad they didn't totally close that base after Andrew, but probably didn't save as much as they hoped to "save" going from an active AFB to a reserve base. Air Drops have caused food riots with the strong and healthy getting the food and the weak and injured none. Not a good option. So the current SOP is to land a squad of troops, secure the area, then do the drop so distribution works better. All this takes time, fuel, AC, and boots on the ground....Where are the French boots on the ground? Oh, yeah, that is part of why Haiti is such a mess in the first place!

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:26 pm 
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You don't think the "benevolent" UN and the local Haitian government have ulterior motives:
http://www.coha.org/hispaniola-the-cari ... ing-trade/


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:42 pm 
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Just a quick plea - can we keep to the aviation / logistic topics nd avoid any nationality bashing please?
daveymac82c wrote:
This is a very interesting topic and it's fascinating to look at the differences between the two. Clearly the situation at PAP is an entirely different beast to that of the Berlin Airlift.

Pretty much what I was trying to say in a longer winded way.
RareBear wrote:
On Sunday a USAF Air Traffic Control Squadron came in and essentially took over the field as far as ATC was concerned.

The issue with planes circling was due to the lack of fuel on the field, and the mandate that every flight in had to arrive with enough fuel on board to take off again. Some arriving flights did not meet that criteria and were refused landing permission.

Thanks for that, the ATC situation was my guess. The fuel issue seems a black and white one, decidable much earlier surely?

Thanks again, and keep the input coming, it's a most interesting facet in a tragic situation.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:45 pm 
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One of the things I hadn't noticed (or overlooked) in the posts is the runway at Port-au-Prince airport, and taxiways, or lack thereof. Having spent a number of months at that place in '94, we observed the same problem they're having now. Once an aircraft lands, other aircraft must wait until it lands, taxis to the end of the runway (either 10 or 28), turns, and taxis back down the runway to the terminal. Takes a bit of time. Also, I'm wondering if they're using the apron we used on the south side of the end on runway 10. And, have they shoved all of the unnecessary aircraft there onto the grass (as we did).

There used to be another field in PaP - Bowen Field, that was Hq of the Haitian AF, but since '94 it was abandonded, and is unusable to anything but helos.

The only other field of any size is at Cap-Haitien, but it has NO ramp space for transports, unless the disused portion at the end of runway 23 could be used for parking and unloading. Again, NO taxiways.

Really feel sorry for the people down there. Many poor, but proud, and friendly.

And just a post-thought...What about using LAPES on the north side of the runway at PaP, which is already secured...or is the ground still too soggy?

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Last edited by Old SAR pilot on Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:59 pm 
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Ports are bad, Seabee's are now just getting to work on them. Heard there are a couple of ships with large cranes on there way to help.

As it already has been said the USAF has taken over the airport at the request of the Haitian gov. I saw some pictures posted from a C-130 crew that was there. No ramp space. Planes are parked on the grass and they had their C-130 parked wing tip to wing tip with other planes and he noted they have never been packed in this tight ever before. They waited a hour to land.

You can see the pictures here.
http://www.arcforums.com/forums/air/ind ... 1347&st=20

Mike

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:41 pm 
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I an tell you where they are alike. Today a TV reporter was on talking about efforts, and in the background a DC-3/C-47 taxied past!! Just got to wonder if there is a chancce that it flew in the berlin Airlift and this?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:08 pm 
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*My views and opinions, not those of the USAF.*

While sitting on alert here in North Carolina waiting to go back to Haiti..

The Berlin airlift involved airplanes from the Air Forces of a couple of countries. A hard and fast schedule could be set and followed. In Haiti, we are dealing with pretty much anything that flies! Civilian light planes filled with water bottles mixed in with military, airlines, freight contractors, politicians that just want the photo opportunity and foreign countries that want to contribute. All are important to the grand plan but it's nearly impossible to control!

All that most people on the ground know is that the airplane hasn't landed. What they don't know (this probably isn't their fault and I certainly understand their frustration) is that the reasons can very well be beyond the control of the aircrew, the airport or the US and Haitian governments. It doesn't take many airplanes on a ramp to max out the capacity. From the ground and air it can look like there is plenty of room to put a plane but what you don't see is that the access points to the parking spots are blocked by other airplanes wingtips or tails sticking out. One or two broke airplanes on the ramp can waste the parking space of five airplanes. I can tell you that just taxiing in Port au Prince is a dangerous sport because there are so many vehicles, people, fuel trucks and other airplanes moving in a small space. Just last night I had a UN truck drive under the tail of my airplane, while we were backing up. He missed hitting the ramp by about ten feet. Flying in and out at night is bad but it's downright scary in the daytime!

Airplanes from all over the world are arriving constantly. If you are scheduled to arrive at 1800hrs in a C-17, then that is based off of (among many other things) the assumption that you have a parking space. If the IL-76 sitting in your space was supposed to leave at 1745hrs is still sitting there, then you don't have a parking spot. The only choice is go back home or circle. You can circle until you have a parking spot open up, or you can circle until you run low on gas and have to go home. Why is the IL-76 still sitting in the C-17s parking space? Maybe it's broke. Maybe the crew can't get permission to take off due to airspace congestion and the only place to put the airplane is in that spot. Moving out to the runway or taxiway will just block other planes. Usually, the plane didn't get unloaded or loaded in a timely manner and they can't move until it’s completed. That puts the load teams in a bind so even when the IL-76 does move and the C-17 gets in parking, the load team hasn't been able to position to download all the cargo from the C-17 so now you are already behind even though you haven't started.

I landed there last night. I unloaded 130,000 pounds of rolling stock and food. We expected to carry out 250+ passengers. We were told that no passengers where on site. While we were getting ready to leave, a guy ran up and asked how long we could wait. I checked with my pilots and told him we had about an hour. He said a bunch of passengers had just shown up unexpectedly and they wanted to put them with us. I told him to get me as many as they could. I'm not sure what all processing is involved with deciding who goes on the plane but I was told they could run about 100 people an hour through the system. I ended up with 94 women, men and children in seats and strapped to the floor, we took off and carried them to Florida. It isn't the US military that is in charge of that process. They assist with the logistics of it but civilians (many nationalities) are running it. I was told there would be 40-50,000 people (American citizens) going back to the US before this is all over. During the daytime, the airport is full of passengers and we get thousands a day out of town. At night, I was told, people are afraid to travel so they don't come out to the airport so the number of passengers drops to a trickle of what we are capable of moving.

As for setting up an emergency airport being such an issue for the US military: It wouldn't be...if it was just the US military using it. If this was a total US ran deal, we would still have lots of problems. It would just be a lot easier to make everything be done one way. We would have total control over all aspects and it would have to be done our way. It's not always the most efficient way but it does wonders for establishing order in the short term! Of course, then you get accused of being an occupying force and such so it's a no win situation.

My squadron is a training squadron. Our sole purpose in life is to teach pilots and loadmasters how to operate the C-17. We do not have a deployment commitment and other than the very occasional loan of a person to another squadron, we have nothing to do with the "real world" stuff the US military is involved in. The US commitment to this operation in Haiti is high enough that ten crews and six airplanes from my squadron are flying missions in to Port au Prince from North Carolina. We have dropped the training level of students to an extremely low level, using the few crews we left at home, so that we can support this mission. Measures this extreme has not been taken since way before I came in the Air Force. I think that speaks volumes about the US commitment to the humanitarian side of things. Between Port au Prince and Pope AFB last night, I saw C-17s from five different bases and Canada.

People wonder why we don't do more airdrops of supplies. Some of that has been done and the capability to do a lot more certainly exists. Six of my crews flying on this are airdrop crews (including me) and we are hoping we get to do it! But where do you drop everything? People don't realize what all goes into the securing of a drop zone large enough to use. People don't know how many soldiers it takes to keeps 4 million hungry people away from the food long enough to get it unpacked and distributed. Not to mention having to keep people off the drop zone so they aren't killed by falling containers! Even if everything lands and nobody is hurt in the process, you still have to get the supplies distributed. That brings on all other problems that are well beyond my scope. The amount of MREs that I carried in last night was approximately 1/12th the capacity I could put in a C-17. Somebody above my paygrade had to make the decision about what was more important. Three water trucks and an ambulance? Or 100,000 more pounds of food. The plane that was being loaded when I landed back in North Carolina had a crane and bulldozer in it. What's more important to carry? Food? Water? Vehicles to transport it in? Construction equipment? Nobody on the planet has the ability to move the stuff we can move, all things being equal. If anybody else wants the job I'm sure we'd love to give it away. Even though the military isn't totally in charge of this show, we sure will get the complaints when things don't go right!

Another option that C-17s and C-130s have that isn't being utilized is combat offloads. It only works with palletized cargo and even though it's not really practical you can unload massive amounts of cargo in a very short time. Basically, you lower the ramp, pilot runs up the throttles, loadmaster unlocks the cargo, pilot lets off the brakes, plane drives out from under the pallets and cargo lands on ramp. That's where the biggest problem comes in. Now you've go all this cargo sitting on the ground, blocking off a parking ramp, taxiway or runway. It gets the plane out of the way faster but you still have lost the space. Then you have the problems of getting the forklifts to clear the area in a timely manner, distributing the supplies, gathering all the pallets back up, stacking and strapping them, loading them back on another airplane at a later date and taking them back stateside to be used again. So, like many other ideas in this operation, it's a good plan...it just doesn't really work! I can tell you that it's really cool to do though!

As for why the ports aren't being used more. My understanding is that it's partially a matter of cleaning it out so you can get to the docks. Several of the large cranes for loading and unloading the ships fell into the water. You have to have another crane to get them out. Also, the bottom of the harbor is now littered with cargo containers that fell in. They have to be removed too. I'm sure there is a lot more to it but that is some of the stuff I'm aware of.

Here are a few pictures I took last night.





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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:19 pm 
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Brad, let me be among the first that say thank you for your service.

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