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Air Charter and Emergency Response

Updated: Jun 11

Send in the Charters!

For moving large amounts of people, equipment, and supplies quickly, nothing beats air charter. The ability to establish direct transport between staging sites and the site of a natural (or other) disaster results in the maximum relief in the minimum amount of time.The charter service can move personnel and supplies to where they are needed at 500 mph!So, why isn’t the sky black with airplanes on air charter missions en route to disaster sites? Why does it seem to take so long to get people the help that they need? In this blog, we’ll walk you through some of the logistics of utilizing air charter as an emergency response tool.


Often the scale of natural disasters can be immense, hundreds of square miles of damage affecting hundreds of thousands of people. To bring meaningful help and relief to an appreciable part of the affected population requires the movement of a correspondingly large relief worker force accompanied by food, water, medicine, and other critical supplies. What may look like an inadequate reaction is many times the reality that providing relief to so many affected takes time and planning, especially if the relief efforts are to be effective.

The Marshaling of Resources

Think of it this way; if you need to transport 10,000 medical and other relief personnel to a disaster site (which is not a typical for a relief response) an incredible amount of planning needs to go into just getting everyone and everything to the launch site. Personnel will need to be transported to the departure site, as well as any cargo (supplies). Imagine just the logistics of transport and accommodation for this contingent before they even get to the launch site. Add to this that this relief army needs to be organized, managed and directed. This is typically why there is a lag between the disaster event and emergency response, before anyone or anything boards an air charter flight

Why Not Just Keep Sending in Aircraft?

Every time an aircraft lands, ground personnel need to marshal, park, offload passengers and cargo, fuel, and service the aircraft on the ground and then get the aircraft ready to depart before accepting more aircraft. Anyone who has looked out of an airplane window at an airport has seen this well-choreographed process.  

Acceptance rate is the number of aircraft that an airport can receive in a given period of time. Natural disasters, more often than not can crippled acceptance rates, making providing local air traffic control service close to impossible. This type of damage includes but is not limited to:

  • Damaged navigation equipment and airport infrastructure due to airport surfaces being flooded and electrical power not being restored. 

  • Damaged or contaminated fuel systems will limit the arriving aircrafts to ones that do not require refueling.

  • Many of the personnel that works at the airport have been affected by the natural disaster, and are unable to report to work. This shortage of staff can effectively close an airport. 

One Line Please!

When needed, emergency response aircraft are also coming from many different locations, while being requisitioned by many different entities. To ensure that too many aircraft do not arrive at the same time, the airports establish an arrival slot system. This system helps to prevent the resources of the airport from being overwhelmed, by coordinating the arrivals of aircraft. 

Affected airports will often limit their acceptance rate to as few as one aircraft per hour, due to the limited personnel and resources on the ground. Airports may be limit operations to the daytime if lighting and equipment used during nighttime operation are not available.  This scenario would mean approximately twelve arrivals in one day. Remember our 10,000-person air charter transportation scenario? It would take 4-7 days depending on the charter aircraft types utilized to get that many people on the ground. 

The Situation on the Ground

Getting the supplies and relief staff is the first part of a very complex logistical chain of events. There are a lot of factors that impact how quickly relief efforts can be put to work on the ground. These include:

  • Ground transportation

  • Housing

  • Power

  • Security 

It does not make sense to launch air charter relief flights if roads are impassible and the situation on the ground prevents supplies or personnel from getting to the people that need it.

There is Good News

Let’s face it; we often focus what is lacking as opposed to what is working. This can be very useful when a response is inadequate. Attention to can be brought to the issue and do more to help those in need. On the other hand, sometimes the incredible progress and assistance get lost in the shuffle. Know that whenever the need arises, we will be sending as much help as we can with air charter transportation.


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