Strategic Airlift Capability Supported Evacuation Operation

26 September 2017

Strategic Airlift Capability have completed the first ever evacuation of people using the floor loading procedure performed by a SAC C-17.

On 11 September, the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) conducted the first mission directly to St. Maarten, the Caribbean island that got badly damaged by Hurricane Irma. Approximately 90,000 pounds, or 41 tons of cargo from Eindhoven in the Netherlands was downloaded, and 160 passengers were uploaded.

The SAC aircrew had expected a fairly chaotic situation at the airport, and in the airspace around it, but found out that under the circumstances everything from the provisional Air Traffic Control, to the personnel working on the ramp, went calm and smoothly.

The 160 passengers were seated on the floor of the SAC C-17 for the evacuation to Curacao, and strapped in using a procedure called floor loading. When using that procedure, you use load securing straps to secure the passengers instead of seatbelts. One big seatbelt is made of the load securing straps, which the passengers tuck their legs under. This was the first ever evacuation of people using that method conducted by a SAC C-17.

According to the aircrew the passengers were very grateful to be evacuated. Many of them had spent the last days without roof over their heads, waiting outside the airport in the heat. "Still hundreds, maybe a thousand remain, and I wish I could have taken more", the Aircraft Commander of the SAC C-17 said.

The Passengers were evacuated to Curacao. Photo: Heavy Airlift Wing