160 Passengers were uploaded in St. Maarten. Photo: Heavy Airlift Wing
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
About the Strategic Airlift Capability
Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), established in 2008, is a multinational program that provides its 12 member nations with assured access to military airlift capability by owning and operating three Boeing C-17A Globemaster III long-range cargo aircraft.
SAC is based at the Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF) Pápa Air Base, Hungary.
The SAC Nations are the NATO members Hungary (program host nation), Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States and NATO Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden. Each participating nation owns a share of the available flight hours of the SAC C-17As to serve the needs of their national defense, NATO, EU or UN commitments and humanitarian relief efforts.
SAC consists of the 12-nation Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) and the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAM PO). The HAW is the operational unit and the NAM PO, an integral part of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), is the acquisition and sustainment authority of the SAC C-17A weapon system.
NAM PO contracts Boeing via a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement to provide technical support for the SAC C-17A aircraft.