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Civilian humanitarian airlift to Iraq begins

Air Serv Plane From Kuwait Flies Relief Workers To Baghdad

Kuwait City — An Air Serv International aircraft began the civilian humanitarian airlift into Iraq today with the flight of a King Air from Kuwait City to Baghdad International Airport. The flight included Stu Willcuts, president of Air Serv, and a representative of Interaction.

This was the first civilian humanitarian flight into Iraq, signaling a shift to the humanitarian phase of the crisis. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also flown into Iraq to monitor prisoners of war and missing persons.

“It was great to finally fly into Iraq after three months of preparation and waiting,” Stu Willcuts said from the plane on the return flight to Kuwait. “Air Serv is now authorized to fly a regular schedule from Kuwait to Baghdad for service to the humanitarian community.” Today, Air Serv and Interaction representatives met with airport managers and civil affairs personnel to establish procedures for processing the arrival of humanitarian personnel and aid.

Additional clearance is expected this weekend for routes from Amman to Baghdad, and flights from both Amman and Kuwait to Erbil, Mosul, and Basrah.

Air Serv is providing aviation, logistical, and communications support to the humanitarian organizations entering Iraq as result of a$2.2 million start-up grant from the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). A member of the InterAction Iraq Working Group, Air Serv, will provide these services to non-governmental organizations (NGO) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to enable humanitarian response following military conflict in Iraq.

Air Serv’s response to the Iraq emergency provides an integrated humanitarian air service to responding relief agencies, transporting initial assessment teams, relief workers, and urgent relief cargo to areas of greatest need, as well as medical evacuation assistance.

The initial response, from Amman, Jordan and Kuwait City, will include two King Air aircraft to support relief operations, and an Antonov AN-12 aircraft for initial assessments to determine urgent relief needs and appropriate interventions to relieve suffering. The AN-12, based in Bahrain, will also deliver emergency relief supplies, previously stockpiled in the region.

“The initial needs assessment missions we fly may indicate more aircraft are needed. We have already arranged for additional aircraft so we can tailor our initial response to the need,” said Willcuts.

For the past several months Air Serv has worked to prepare to provide assistance to the Iraqi people and the humanitarian agencies that will need safe, secure transport of relief workers, emergency relief materials, food, and medicines throughout the region. Air Serv has worked primarily with the OFDA, CARE, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps, and the International Office for Migration. As a result of Air Serv advance preparation, it now has offices and operating permissions in both Jordan and Kuwait.

Air Serv International’s mission is to use aircraft and other appropriate technology for relief and development, restoring hope for the suffering. Air Serv provides safe, reliable, and cost effective air transport to humanitarian agencies involved in relief and development activities.

In 18 years, with over 140,000 flights and 16 million miles, Air Serv has never had an aircraft accident or flight-related injury to passengers or crew, although it flies most of its flights in the rough conditions of the developing world. Air Serv pilots average more than 7,000 hours of experience each. The company’s schedule reliability is over 98 percent, in part because it prepositions spare parts and conducts an aggressive maintenance program