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Tyndall Air Force Base Directs Haiti Skies
01/20/10 - 10:08 PM
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Jessi Chapin - bio
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click for larger image Tyndall AFB, Fla:

Haiti relief efforts are coming from around the world, but first they have to speak to officials at Tyndall Air Force Base.  Tyndall’s Air Operations Center is directing traffic for all flights to Haiti during this emergency.

“It’s a traffic jam on the ground, it’s a traffic jam right above the airport and it’s a traffic jam from all directions coming in,” said Col. Randy Spear about the earthquake.  Two days later, the AOC was full of members of the armed forces working to undo the chaos.

“We control slot times into the ramp,” said Spear, “Everybody all over the world calls into us and to these people that you see back here working and up here to my right and they just line them up, we give them slot times and we know how many we can have on the ramp at any given time.”

About 40 men and women from all over the U.S and some from Canada are working 14-hour shifts in the control center to ensure safe landing for needed supplies.  Haiti is taking in an average of 150 planes a day, which is more than three times their regular amount.

“Long hours but well worth it,” said Spear, “Everybody’s dog tired but they’re all walking around with a smile on their face because they know the good they’re doing.”

As much as it means risky situations for pilots in the air, it means tough decisions for personnel at Tyndall.

“A plane load of doctors or a plane load of food and water,” said Lt. Col. Brad Graff, the Chief of Haiti Flight Operations, “and those choices have to be made so we try and prioritize that and make sure it’s getting to the people on the ground in the right order.”

A day after their operations came on board, the number of planes able to land and provide relief doubled.  Graff says it’s a challenge well worth taking.

“This is pretty unique for us,” he said, “We’ve never performed it in this scale and we’re very proud of what we achieved here.”

Tyndall representatives are working on a website for relief organizations to get information on transportation and relief for Haiti.  They say it will be up and running soon.

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