Air Force starts air drops into US-controlled Haitian LZs

[/caption] Just a few days after the Defense Secretary said that air drops of relief supplies would lead to chaos and rioting, the Air Force has apparently changed their mind and launched their first parachute delivery of supplies into Haiti.  A C-17 from Nouth Carolina did a 7-hour mission to drop MREs and bottled water into an area controlled by US troops.   Approximately 40 pallets per plane are dropped, and military officials are planning an additional 15 sorties for a total of 600 pallets in the next three days.  CBS News has video of the airdrops.]]>

Haiti airport capabilities and the complainers.

[/caption] Interesting tidbit here about the capabilities of Port au Prince airport.

Currently, we’re operating with a working maximum aircraft on the ground of one wide-body and five narrow-body aircraft. And the one wide-body is planned for two hours on the ground, and the five narrow-bodies are planned for one hour on the ground. We also have room for three smaller aircraft, and then we fit in as much as we can other aircraft that arrive that we have space for. Any aircraft that can taxi into the grass and get off the ramp that the big aircraft need to be on, we use that option.
There’s been the typical “it’s a disaster because I’m not there” claims from some aid agencies and amongst those in Europe.  Some counties have even sent large commercial aircraft, including a Chinese 747, a Dutch KC-10, an Iceland 757 and other civilian airliners to a tiny airstrip that basically has very limited loading and unloading facilities.  Other countries and aid agencies basically ignored ground controllers and crashed the line of planes, basically saying ‘we’re going to run out of fuel and crash if you don’t let us land’ thus creating even more chaos and confusion. Cargo planes that require complicated loading and unloading trucks might not be the best option in these situations.  American C-130 and C-17 aircraft are accessible directly from the ground, no “lift trucks” needed to remove and equipment can be driven off by a forklift rather than slowly disembarked by complicated machinery.  Perhaps there is a need for standardizing the airlift requirements of the Haitian airlift. For example, check out some of the guidelines that were used in the Berlin Airlift requirements:
In August, General William Tunner, a veteran of supply runs during World War II over the Hump (between India and China), arrived to direct and standardize operations to increase efficiency and safety. He discouraged flying heroics, saying that ” a successful airlift is about as glamorous as drops of water on a stone.” And the new flying regulations reflected this, leaving little room for error. Airplanes took off every three minutes, around the clock. They maintained that interval throughout the 170-mile (274-kilometers) flight, not veering an inch from the prescribed route, speed, or altitude. When they arrived in Berlin, they were allowed only one landing attempt. If they missed it, they had to transport the load back to base. When each plane landed in Berlin, the crew stayed in the plane: a snack bar on a wagon gave them food, and weathermen arrived in jeeps with weather updates. As soon as Germans unloaded the last bit of cargo, the plane would take off. Back at base, there was a 1-hour 40-minute turnaround allowed for ground crews to refuel, reload, do preflight preparations, and perform any required maintenance, which was considerable as the engines experienced rapid and excessive wear from the short flights. Tires also experienced extreme stress from the heavy loads and hard landings.
I wonder if turning Homestead ARB into a cargo redistribution center would be a better idea than having all manner of strange aircraft trying to fight their way into Port au Prince.  Have the planes of the world come to Homestead, consolidate their loads and cargos on easy to load and unload C-130s and C-17s, and then create an orderly and pattern-packed line of aircraft into and out of Haiti. It’s just a matter of time before some Airbus breaks down in Haiti and requires a special part flown in from France.  If we are serious about an air bridge, maybe we should consider standard aircraft, standard loading / unloading requirements, and standard parts and repairs to keep the flow of aid moving. Interesting end note:  the other international airport, Cap Haitien, may soon take more flights.]]>

Haiti People Finder: Technology in Chaos

Haitian earthquake disaster. This simple code allows you to have a I’m am Lost I am Found kind of solution to any website (though it is acting up a bit at the moment). Here is the code:

    width=350 height=300 frameborder=0
    style="border: dashed 2px #77c"></iframe>
Some other interesting tech bits today: Haitian Twitter information. CrisisCamp, using technology to help those in need, are meeting in many US cities.]]>

Tracking the hospital ship USNS Comfort in the Chesapeake Bay on the way to Haiti.

[/caption]   For those in the Annapolis area (and who can see through this bit of fog we have on the Bay today), you might be able to catch a glimpse of the USNS COMFORT hospital ship on its way to Haiti sometime around 11:30. Good viewing points in Sandy Point State Park, the Bay Bridge, or in the Bay Ridge area of Annapolis. Again, it is a bit foggy right now so you might not be able to see it unless the fog burns off It should be around the North Beach / Chesapeake Beach boardwalk, another great viewing point which is about 45 minutes from DC around 12:00-12:30. It’s not a very fast ship. ETA to Haiti is 5 days. The COMFORT is squawking on the AIS frequencies, so you can track it. At the moment it looks like it is just leaving the port of Baltimore. Track all ships in the Bay:…PORT_ID=95&PORT_NAME=BALTIMORE This should be the COMFORT directly (select USNS Comfort and then ZOOM):…entery=38.95&zoom=9&level1=130 UPDATE: The COMFORT is battling a bit of stormy weather at the moment. UPDATE 2:  The Baltimore Sun is live blogging from the COMFORT, due to arrive in Haiti on Thursday.]]>

How satellites are being retasked to help the Haiti rescue mission.

[/caption]   I’ve taken a bit of a break from digital media blogging this week.  The jetlag from Vegas/CES and the fact the Haiti story is just so much more important than new TVs has led to me blogging about that disaster instead. One of the interesting things I’ve been reading about is the actual process by which satellites are being pulled into service (retasked) to assist in the rescue effort.  The BBC’s Space Reporter has an excellent piece about the efforts underway by the EU and other nations who are pulling in space resources to assist in the disaster.

Many space agencies have signed up to something called the International Charter [on] Space and Major Disasters. It was initiated back in 2000 by Esa, and the French (Cnes) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies; but then quickly acquired other signatories including important US bodies like Noaa and the US Geological Survey. The UK, too, is involved. It has a very particular contribution to make through the Guildford-based Disaster Monitoring Constellation company, which manages a six-strong fleet of optical and near-infrared imaging satellites that can – as a team – picture the entire Earth’s surface in one day. When the Charter is activated, the signatories re-task their satellites to get the data most urgently needed in a devastated region. The Charter was activated this week – of course it was.
  Be sure to take a look at all the pictures that have been not only generated, but also modified to show specific damage in neighborhoods, etc.   Geoeye, which works with Google, has also done some interesting ‘before and after’ type photos, matching up specific coordinates so people can see what things looked like before the earthquake and after.  By far the best use of this data is in today’s New York Times, which utilizes Flash to allow the user a house-by-house comparison of the two photos. MSNBC’s Cosmic blogger is also doing an interesting piece on satellites being retasked.  His story remarks about the worldwide collaboration that is going on:
GeoEye is by no means the only satellite operator on the case. A whole fleet of eyes in the sky are focusing on Haiti: DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-1 andQuickBird. France’s Spot-5, Japan’s ALOS, the European Space Agency’s ERS-2 and Envisat, and Canada’s RadarSat-2.
The MSNBC piece also talks about some of the volunteer efforts underway to establish communications systems in Haiti.  One such agency is TSF–Telecom San Frontiers  who deployed a recovery team to Haiti already. Looking over the devastation I’m reminded of my own seawall.  It’s 100 feet long and surrounded by large boulders.  Every year I say I’m going to pull back the boulders closer to the seawall (the curl of the wave pulls them toward the sea) and every year I end up not doing it.  It’s just too massive of an effort to accomplish on my own. And now I look at what is going on in Haiti.  This is going to be more massive than we can even comprehend at this point.  The fleet that we have sent is nowhere large enough, and the plane bridge will not be able to keep up with the demand.  This is going to get much much worse in the next weeks and months before it gets better.]]>

Full list of Navy ships being sent to Haiti

[/caption] I put together a list of Navy vessels being sent to Haiti.  Quite an armada. USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) USS Bataan (LHD 5) USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) USS Underwood (FFG 36) USS Kearsarge USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) USS Higgins (DDG-76) USS Normany (CG-60) USCG Forward USCG Valiant USCG Mohawk USCG Tahoma [caption id="attachment_2721" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Damage to the ports in Haiti"][/caption] Canadian Navy HMCS Athabaskan HMCS Halifax]]>

Tracking the Haiti rescue flights and radio traffic online

[/caption] For those who want to get some really specific details of what is going on in Haiti, you can turn to some web interfaces to some rather old school technology. Firstly, the Military Communications Bloggers are doing an amazing job tracking all the rescue traffic on the radios going in and out of Haiti.  MilComm bloggers often transcribe the radio traffic they hear, and as it is straight ‘from the horse’s mouth’ it’s also usually about 30-60 minutes ahead of the television reports.  For example, you can read this traffic from a monitoring station in Charleston South Carolina.  Rescue planes are on the ground, recovering the wounded, and the lights are on at the airport.

  • 1940Z 9007.0 CANFORCE 2343 p/p via TRENTON MILITARY to WING OPS. WING OPS passes 1345Z overhead damage assessment of Port-au-Prince. E/O imagery shows no structural damage to airfield or terminal. Electrical equipment not working. E/O imagery shows little to no damage to port facility. WING OPS estimates 10 aircraft en route with the same ETA. CANFORCE 2343 gets WX for Port-au-Prince, Homestead, Providenciales Airport, and Jags McCartney IAP
  • 2024Z 9007.0 CANFORCE 2343 p/p via TRENTON MILITARY to 613-XXX-XXXX for SITREP regarding deployment last night of 2 CH-146s from 430 Squadron at Cold Lake to Haiti. First 2 are yellow and follow on is green. Ground party needs SITREP for fuel and force protection needs
  • 2223Z 7527.0 CG 1501 (HC-130, CGAS Clearwater) p/p to D7 Miami Ops. Still on deck Port-au-Prince with 40+ PAX on board and still loading. They are bringing PAX in vans at 10-20 at a time. They also report 2 USAF C-130s on deck and a Lynden Air Cargo C-130. Runway lights are working
There are also some Ham Radio operators working Haiti, relaying communications between families in the US and in Haiti.  You can also listen to streaming radio stations from Haiti (though most are offline right now).  Some of the Ham Radio is being rebroadcast via Teamtalk online streams and other streaming media solutions. Flight tracking websites can show you the status of all aircraft inbound for Port Au Prince (MTPP) but this is based on the flight plans filed in the US, not necessarily the actual number of planes coming in from various countries. Haiti Internet Radio has a list of stations broadcasting, many of which are on backup connections and still on the air despite all that has happened. Finally, there are several sites that track “Where Are the Carriers“–daily updates of the location of our country’s aircraft carriers. UPDATE:  Google has published some interesting satellite photos of the destruction using the Geoeye/Google satellite.]]>