USAF Aircraft Grounded By Grit, Poor Visibility
Just about midnight recently, the wind kicked up in Iraq just as
suddenly as if someone had turned on a light switch, bringing with
it huge clouds of dust that rolled in and obliterated everything
People who were sleeping in their tents were rudely awakened as
tent ropes strained and even some beds were buffeted by the
"Although weather reports had predicted high winds, even our
satellite images didn't reveal the curtain of dust that descended
on the airfield," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Sanborn, noncommissioned
officer in charge of the 447th Expeditionary Operations Squadron's
Sergeant Sanborn, deployed from the 25th Operational Weather
Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, AZ, is no stranger to
working in a desert environment and said he knew full well the
dangers of such high winds and reduced visibility.
"We had 10 aircraft due in that couldn't land and had to turn
around," said Col. Daniel Kornacki, 447th Air Expeditionary Group
commander. "Three aircraft ended up stuck on the ground as their
crews scrambled to cover intakes and protect their engines from the
As a career C-130 Hercules pilot in the Air Force Reserve, and a
Boeing 737-200 pilot for Delta Airlines, Colonel Kornacki knows
from experience how unpredictable the weather can be and its effect
on flying operations.
Shortly after the wind began, Colonel Kornacki set off, driving
up and down the flightline, straining to see through the dust as he
searched for aircrew members who might have been caught out in the
People who were working on the flightline ran for cover, and
many of those who were off duty and had been sleeping stumbled out
of their beds to see what was happening, only to find they could
not even see the tent next door.
"Visibility was officially down to one-sixteenth of a mile,"
Sergeant Sanborn said. "But the dust was pretty thick in some
By first light, the winds had died down, but there was so much
dirt in the air the sun was only a faint light in the eastern
A layer of dust, so fine it was like brown flour, covered
"It was everywhere -- you could even taste it in the air," said
Colonel Kornacki who is deployed from his position as the 94th
Airlift Wing vice commander at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, GA.
Flight crews began cleaning out engine intakes and other
critical components of their aircraft. Other Airmen shook the dirt
out of their hair and clothes as they set about their normal daily
routine, chalking the experience up to "just one of those things
that happens when you're deployed."
(ANN saultes Tech. Sgt. Brian Davidson, 447th Air
Expeditionary Group Public Affairs, USAF)