On Sunday afternoon, I was on a White House conference call with American officials in Haiti, and what stands out from the call is the sheer logistical nightmare it is dealing with their airport. We've all seen and heard reports of complaints that Americans were "not letting the aid in," and now I understand why.
Col. Buck Elton, who was given the mission to open up airfield and assist with airlifts, says they have controlled 600+ takeoffs and landings in an airstrip that normally sees three takeoffs and landings a day.
Because the air traffic control tower has collapsed, all of this is being done by radio, on the ground - in a place that only has one runway/taxiway for planes, set directly in the middle of the airport and thus making it difficult for other planes to take off and arrive.
Col. Buck talked about how they have to "stack the aircraft until we have space for someone else to come in. " The maximum number of aircraft that can fit on the ground: one wide-body, five narrow-body planes. and three smaller aircrafts that can taxi in on the ground, filling that spot as necessary. (It sounds like a game of Tetris.)
"The volume is similar to running a major airport without computers, radar or other equipment," he said.
So now you know.