Colonel Describes Orderly Traffic at Haiti Airport
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2010 Six hundred flights carrying humanitarian personnel, relief provisions and evacuees have transited through the Port-au-Prince, Haiti, airport since the U.S. Air Force began operating there a day after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked Haiti Jan. 12.
Air Force Col. Buck Elton, in an operational update with reporters today, added that no major security incidents have occurred at the airport since the Air Force personnel began overseeing the high volume of traffic.
“Since then, we’ve controlled approximately 600 takeoffs and landings from this 10,000-foot strip that normally operates three aircraft out of it on a daily basis,” said Elton, commander of the U.S. forces directing flights at Haiti's airport.
“Everything has been very orderly,” he added. “The Haitian police force is helping out tremendously with crowd control and with traffic control around the airfield, and we’ve had no major incidents.”
In an update with Tim Callaghan of the U.S. Agency for International Development's foreign disaster assistance office, Elton said 24 patients have been brought to the airfield for treatment, including 16 Americans with what Elton described as “crush injuries.”
While the rush of supplies and aid from other countries initially overwhelmed the airport's limited capacity, Elton said, the capacity for processing arriving and departing flights is improving steadily. He noted that about 60 percent of the flights coming in are civilian and 40 percent are military.
Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, but other reports elevate the figure to between 100,000 to 200,000.
For its part, the Defense Department has authorized up to $20 million in immediate aid to Haiti, and the nation’s top military officer estimated that up to 10,000 U.S. troops would be in Haiti by tomorrow.
In his update, Elton underscored the speed with which Air Force personnel began operations after landing at the badly damaged airport around 7 p.m. on Jan. 13.
“Within 28 minutes of landing our first aircraft, we had special tactics combat control teams controlling the airspace around the airfield, and sequencing in the arriving aircraft that night,” he said.