USAF takes charge at Port-au-Prince airport

Airport Arrival, originally uploaded by The Fang.

AFSOC teams arrived at Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport (MTPP) on Wednesday night and began the process of bringing order out of chaos at Port-au-Prince’s primary airfield.  Elements of the 23d Special Tactics Squadron (23 STS) and 720th Special Tactics Group (720 STG) are providing air traffic control and airfield services, medical support, and weather observation/forecasting.  (More information available via yesterday’s DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable interview (embedded below) with Lt. Col. Brett Nelson (USAF), 23 STS Commander and Maj. Jason Daniels (USAF), director of operations for the 720th Operations Support Squadron.

Some noteworthy items mentioned in the interview:

  • The airport is open 24 hours; airfield lighting is operational and USAF brought additional portable lighting as well.
  • Traffic flow at the airport is constrained primarily by ramp space and fueling equipment.  There are only 12 ramp spaces, 2 fuel trucks and 2 tow bars.  One foreign aircraft (identified as Chinese in other reports) required 6 hours to refuel, which is considered a significant delay.
  • Peak capacity seemed to have been when there were 44 aircraft on the ground; the more aircraft there are crowding into the small ramp, the harder it is to download cargo and upload evacuees.
  • USAF is working with the FAA to try to prioritise air traffic and try to get the most urgent cargo and equipment to the airfield at the time they are needed.
  • Due to the limited logistics capability at the airfield, USAF would prefer that aircraft arriving at Port-au-Prince have enough fuel to depart again.
  • Status of the petro tank farm is not known.
  • USAF looked at using an additional airfield (Cap-Haitien International Airport, MTCH) to facilitate traffic flow, but determined that its potential throughput is “not that significant”.

RELATED: CNN producer Larry Shaughnessy was present on the call and has penned a pretty good summation of the effort at MTPP.

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