Embassy Air Iraq: Tickets Available Soon…In the Meantime, Fire Up Your Brooms

Martin Le France (1410-1461)

The things you find out in govies reports!  I am aware of the air fleet the State Department is putting together (see our post on the new helo fleet here). I just did not know the exact number or that it officially has a name.  Below is an extract from the OIG report on Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq Performance Evaluation, just released.

As of January 2011, Embassy Air Iraq consisted of 19 aircraft based in Baghdad.

The plan is to expand up to as many as 46 aircraft by December 2011, to include:

• 18-20 medium lift S-61 helicopters

• 14-18 light lift UH-1N helicopters

• Three light observation MD-530 helicopters

• Five Dash 8 fixed wing aircraft (50-passenger capacity)

The future quantity and mix of aircraft are under review, in conjunction with pending decisions on the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq and the size and scope of the Department’s police training program.

The fleet will be based and maintained in Baghdad, Basra, and Erbil and will service ring routes transporting personnel into and out of Iraq, internally from Baghdad to Basra and Erbil, and to and from helicopter hubs in support of embassy branch offices, police training centers, and OSC sites.

In addition to putting in place an air operation with more than 20 aircraft supporting a 7-day-a-week mission load, the embassy is facing a number of other challenges in the months ahead.

First, the Department must finalize agreements with the Governments of Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait authorizing Embassy Air Iraq flight plans.

Second, the Department needs to finalize land use agreements with the GOI to base aircraft in Basra and Erbil and use landing zones at the hub sites.

Third, flight and landing zones, maintenance hangars, operation buildings, and air traffic control towers need to be renovated or constructed. Construction is in the initial stage in Baghdad and is only in the planning stage in Erbil and Basra. According to INL officials, completing these construction tasks by December 2011 will be difficult.

Finally, the embassy must develop an independent aviation logistics operation for maintenance and refueling. Maintenance hangars with cranes are not available and Iraqi commercial aviation fuel delivery capability and dependability is poor.

So if the air operation is not in place by the time DOD  withdraws from Iraq, our State Department folks will just have to fire up their brooms?

The report is now posted online:
-05/31/11   Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq Performance Evaluation (MERO-I-11-08) May 2011  [1258 Kb]