Wednesday, January 16, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- January 16

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

” Jan 16, 1991: One day after the expiration of a United Nations deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, military aircraft of the U.S.-led coalition began Operation Desert Storm, striking targets in Iraq and occupied Kuwait. At 7:00 pm EST, shortly after the attacks began, FAA declared Level 4 airport/airline security, the highest domestic level ever imposed. On Jan 17, the Department of Defense activated Level 2 of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, calling upon U.S. airlines to provide additional transport aircraft. American and allied troops routed Iraqi forces in a ground assault that began on Feb 24, and a U.S.-proclaimed ceasefire took effect at midnight EST on Feb 27. (See Aug 17, 1990, and May 14, 1991.) “

If you’ll remember, back before this silly notion that government should act like a business -- lighter, faster, cheaper -- we believed in overwhelming force. We sent 500,000 troops just to defend Saudi Arabia -- before we built up even more for the invasion of Kuwait. Getting the troops there and keeping them supplied required an extraordinary amount of airlift assets. The Civilian Reserve Air Fleet was activated.

It was said at the time -- and my 15 minutes worth of research leads me to believe it is still true -- that the U.S. Air Force has more C-135s than Brand X airline has airplanes. Pick any airline because that is more than the biggest airline, even now. Add in the C-130s, the C-141s, the C-5s, the fighters, etc., etc., etc...there were a lot of airplanes flying. Continuously. It was called an “air bridge” and if you could have seen it on the monitors you would have seen it did indeed look like a bridge.

There are two thoughts that come to mind.

1) There are a lot of things that go on in the National Airspace System that the average “civilian” never thinks about.

2) The “skies” weren’t “overcrowded.” The “antiquated” air traffic control system handled all the extra traffic just fine (thank you very much.) Of course, all the extra airplanes weren’t trying to take off and land at New York at the same time.

Don Brown
January 16, 2008

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