Air Serv sends plane to Chad for refugee relief – Sudanese refugees in Chad in serious crisis

Air Serv sends plane to Chad for refugee relief – Sudanese refugees in Chad in serious crisis

Warrenton, Va., Feb. 19, 2004 – Air Serv International will base a plane in Chad to assist more than 130,000 people who have crossed the border from Western Sudan to escape fighting in the Darfur area.
These people have been displaced by the conflict in Darfur’s three states since August, as a result of widespread burning, looting and killing in their villages by Arab militias. There are an additional 500,000 people in Darfur who have been displaced internally by the same local events.

The Air Serv King Air arrived Friday in Chad for an airlift that will last at least a year. The plane, based in N’djamena, will support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) response and the staff of non-governmental organization (NGO) humanitarian agency partners. The $1.6 million program is being conducted in cooperation with UNHCR and the Department of State’s Bureau for Population and Refugee Migration (BPRM). An Air Serv plane is being dedicated to the Chad crisis because of the large distances, the increasing numbers of refugees, and the lack of road infrastructure in the area. Air Serv’s Chad response focuses on the current refugee crisis and to assist in the eventual return of these people to their homes in western Sudan. The conflict pits farming communities against nomads who have aligned themselves with the militia groups – for whom raids are a way of life – in stiff competition for land and water. The refugees are located in four zones along the Chadian eastern and southeastern border with Sudan and sites in the Central African Republic. A main base will be established in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, with a secondary base in Abeche. Airstrips at Adre, Tine, Guereda, and Goz Baida will be utilized, along with several other smaller and un-named airstrips close to refugee camp sites currently being identified and constructed.

Stu Willcuts, president of Air Serv International, met in Geneva with the UNHCR’s Ursula Schulze-Aboudacar, Head of the Desk for the Great Lakes Region, and Javier Lopez-Cifuentes, Head of the Desk for East and North Africa, including Sudan, on his return from Chad, to get their assessment of the crisis and to negotiate the agreement for the use of the aircraft.

Funding from the State Department to Air Serv International will provide the aircraft, as well as a complete transport management service to the UNHCR and its implementing partners – including management staff, aircraft crew, maintenance staff, scheduling services, passenger handling, and all ground support. Air Serv is also assisting the UNHCR with two other refugee assistance efforts, in West Africa, and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Air Serv is providing two King Air 200s and one Cessna 208 Caravan.

In 19 years, with over 150,000 flights and 16 million miles, AirServ has never had a flight-related injury or fatality, although it flies most of its flights in the rough conditions of the developing world, primarily in emergency humanitarian response actions. AirServ pilots average more than 6,000 hours of experience each. The current fleet of 19 turbine and two piston fixed-wing aircraft, plus 2 turbine helicopters, has maintained a reliability schedule of over 98 percent, in part because it prepositions spare parts, provides a permanent maintenance engineer with each program, and conducts an aggressive maintenance program.

For More Information Contact 6583 Merchant Place, Suite 100 Jim Jewell, Rooftop Public Relations Warrenton, VA 20187 (678) 458-9837 (cell) www.airserv.org (770) 904-0494 (office)