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Volcanic eruptions affect McChord crews, too

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on April 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm with No Comments »
April 20, 2010 8:10 pm

Those eruptions of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano that disrupted air travel across Europe affected Joint Base-Lewis McChord flight crews, too.

But because McChord airmen become part of a larger system of Air Force personnel around the globe once they leave Puget Sound, it’s difficult to tell how their schedules or roles have changed because of the volcano, a McChord Field spokeswoman said Tuesday.

McChord’s 62nd Airlift Wing has 42 crews of about four people each and 26 aircraft “in the system” right now, Capt. Ali Kojak said. Crews from the 446th Airlift Wing, a reserve unit, also fly daily missions around the world.

Officials said more than 75 missions controlled by the Air Mobility Command’s Tanker Airlift Control Center Airlift have been rerouted since the volcano’s ash cloud began spreading across European airspace last week.

A number of missions were pushed up to earlier departures to keep troops and cargo moving in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Kojak said.

Commercial air travel was returning to normal Tuesday, but airlines had an enormous task in working to move a backlog of passengers. More than 95,000 flights were canceled since the southern Iceland volcano began spewing ash into the atmosphere last week.

It’s difficult “to dig down into the system” to learn exactly how McChord crews were affected by airspace closures, Kojak said. But every McChord airman and aircraft would have been touched in some way by the eruption because “everything in the system.”

That included Air Force One. The ash cloud kept President Barack Obama from attending the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s last weekend.

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