Aviation News

January 14, 2010

Flight Coverage of Haitian Earthquake Relief

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By: Phil Derner Jr.
Amerijet has sent two rotations to Haiti with a 727 so far today. (Photo by Mario J. Craig)
Amerijet has sent two rotations to Haiti with a 727 so far today. (Photo by Mario J. Craig)
Amerijet is an airline that sent two rotaitons to Haiti using a 727. (Photo by Matthew Smith)

Amerijet is an airline that sent two rotations to Haiti using a 727. (Photo by Matthew Smith)

The outpouring of disaster relief in the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti was turned on full-swing over the past day, with aircraft of all kinds from all over the planet converging on Port-au-Prince’s Airport. Countries from all over the world are practically sending waves of aircraft to help an already challenged nation recover from a disaster of massive proportions.

Even in normal conditions, the airport would be strained to receive such a multitude of aircraft. The earthquake has rendered the control tower damaged and unusable. A small handful of people along with assistance from the United States Air Force are keeping the airspace and airfield and its 9,900ft runway under basic control.

Ramp space is also at a minimum. With parking only allowed for as many as a dozen aircraft at a given time, it wouldn’t take much for inbound aircraft to need to hold or divert just because of parking issues. Not to mention a difficult time with limited ground equipment, and the gas to run it, adds to the challenge in getting the much needed food, water and supplies to the millions in dire need.

Miami Air sent a pair of flights down for support deliver in the form of a 737-800.

Miami Air sent a pair of flights down for support deliver in the form of a 737-800.

Most of the first flights, and a large portion of the flights in general that have been landing in Haiti are private planes and chartered business jets. Many of them have been flying with an “L” at the beginning of their filed callsigns, giving them a “Lifeguard” designation to indicate urgent carriage of emergency gear or an injured or sick passenger being delivered for treatment.

Though most military flights cannot be tracked by the public, civilian airlines have been trickling in to deliver either federal workers or other volunteer groups. Miami Air, Amerijet and Vision are just some of the carriers that were charted to bring manpower. Commercial airline service has been discontinued by all carriers.

Here is a summary of just some of the known non-military airline flights that have made it on the ground.

Airline Aircraft Flights
Belgian Air Force Airbus A330 1
Miami Air Boeing 737-800 2
Vision Airlines Boeing 737-400 1
Vision Airlines Boeing 737-800 1
Lynden Air Cargo Lockheed C-130 2
Icelandair Boeing 757-200W 1
American Eagle ATR-72 5
Air China Airbus A330 3
Blue Line Airbus A310 (F-HBOY) 1
First Air Lockheed C-130 (L-100) 2
Xtra Airways Boeing 737-400 1
Miami Air Lease Convair 440 (N41527) 1
Florida Air Transport Douglas DC-3 1
Missionary Flights International Douglas DC-3 1
Amerijet International Boeing 727 3
El Al Boeing 747-200 1

Around midday, the airport was shut down due to the airport’s inability to handle aircraft, support the unloading of equipment, and a lack of storage space for everything that has come in due to the challenges faced in distributing through the crippled infrastructure. The field has also run out of jet fuel. Several aircraft, mostly private jets, were forced to divert, including a Learjet 35A (N405GJ) that diverted to Guantanamo Bay.

Correction [1/15/10 10:45am EST]: An earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated that American Airlines is still flying commercial passengers to Haiti from San Juan. This is not the case. Yesterday’s American Eagle ATR-72 flights were in fact relief flights. There is no commercial passenger service to Haiti at this time.

Stay tuned for continued coverage and updates…

First Air dispatched their two C-130s, this being one of them, to head to Haiti in the early hours of January 15th.

First Air dispatched their two C-130s, this being one of them, to head to Haiti in the early hours of January 15th.


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