USAF C-17 Flies Emergency Infant Formula From Germany To Indiana


A U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III landed at Indianapolis International airport in Indiana on May 22 loaded with a 78,000 pounds of infant formula from Switzerland, enough for half a million baby bottles, said the Air Force. The formula was transported from Zurich to Ramstein Air Base in Germany on trucks, then loaded onto 132 pallets for the flight, according to the Pentagon.

The Operation Fly Formula relief effort was managed by the Transportation Command of the Department of Defense (USTRANSCOM). The commander of USTRANSCOM, Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost, said, “Whether the needs are in Ukraine, India, or even right here at home, from deploying combat-credible forces, to providing vaccines, food, water and supplies during a pandemic or natural disaster, USTRANSCOM will deliver.”

Typically, the military does not conduct what are normally considered commercial operations. But as of May 18, President Biden invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act (DPA) in response to the formula shortage. The law gives the government authority to direct private companies to act during a national crisis. The DPA allows the president to identify businesses capable of producing critical or scarce material and mandate that they do so under contract. Recent years have seen the law invoked due to hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic and other civil disasters.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Boy things are going great, now we have a Berlin Airlift for Baby formula….How I miss 2019….

  2. Couldn’t just hire Fedex to ship that stuff, no, we have to look like the government is doing something important. Funny how they loaded it on Fedex trucks after the photo op. Hey, why stop there. Should have had a military convoy with guns and tanks deliver that stuff. Green uniforms everywhere. Create a crisis, exploit the crisis. Ugh.

  3. What did I miss? This article mentions baby formula and military air transport, but as far upstream as it goes is the mention of Zurich. I know that this is an aviation oriented site, but the article just leaves one with more questions.
    Why is baby formula being brought to the USA from Zurich, or wherever it originated? Have we outsourced all the USA production of baby formula to the PRC? Or, are we now another Australia bereft of baby formula because PRC nationals are buying it all to ship back to China?
    A followup article could prove interesting. When the Executive Branch is requiring the US taxpayers to pay the freight for commercial cargo one just wonders who is really sitting in the left seat.

    • The US gummint pays for a huge proportion of ‘baby formula’ in the US.

      Its fools limited supply to one supplier, who had a serious quality control problem.

      Law forbids changing supplier and forbids importing.

      Voters in the US: it’s ultimately your fault for electing do-gooding control freaks.

      (Canada is of course next door but with 1/10 of the population of the US is probably limited in capacity to help the US.)

      ‘Baby formula’ is formulated to replace human breast milk, including for mothers who cannot produce enough themselves.

      • I have looked into this situation a little more. It would appear there is a really crooked path with many moving parts along the way that has led us to this day.

        In broad strokes, it seems there are 4 major manufacturers of baby formula in the US who control about 90% of the market. When one of these four stops production that leaves the market with about a 20% shortage of baby formula.

        How did we get here and why are the businesses whining about Federal regulations? If anyone recalls the demise of such as the regional meat processors and the local tire retailers who also produced recapped tires, it was the big boys selling new tires and large meat packers who sent lobbyist to Washington to seek more stringent regulations for their respective industries. The rational was the cost of compliance with the new regs would force most of the regional meat processors out of business as well as force tire retailers to stop recapping tires. The cost for their compliance with the regs requested by these large businesses would be more than made up by the increases in sales due to less competition. Is the baby formula business really any different?

  4. From Indiana and then straight to the Mexican border to be given away free to illegal aliens? We never had shortages before US businesses started outsourcing. The Swiss avoid this, not wanting to be dependent on others. I once toured the Pilatus factory in Stans. What impressed me most was the statement by the head of sales that Pilatus always prefers to make their own components instead of buying from suppliers. He said that slows the process down as they build skills, but has many long-term benefits. Seeing their great success, it has clearly paid off. It also helps that 80% of all careers in Switzerland begin with a 3-4 year apprenticeship at age 16. This they have a strong, nature, highly-skilled workforce. American companies often take the “easy” way out, but fail in the long-run. See the decline US GA aircraft manufacturing. Once the world’s leader, now just a skeleton of what once was. Shameful.

  5. The initial online credit-taking announcement from the WH referenced 70,000 TONS of formula were arriving. They scrubbed that one fairly quickly. But somebody did the math and calculated the actual amount of 78,000 POUNDS will feed the USA’s hungry infants for 4 hours +/-. But don’t you worry, Joe has announced… a second flight. LGB!

    • Sounds like ultimately need 70,000. tons whether ‘long’ or ‘short’ (metric) ones. 😉

      Hopefully plant gets its act together soon – predicted for a few weeks hence.

      There’s confusion over source of the bacteria that two infants died from, a different strain was found on some surfaces in the plant so it stopped production. And there’s a PR bunfight between Abbott and a fired whistleblower.

      Reminds me of the XL Foods meat plant fiasco in Alberta. Equipment was not being cleaned deep down thus bacteria could migrate upward. That cost the owners control of their business, the Brazilian company that sells meat in the US took over to satisfy the US government to accept imports. (That company owns Burger Kringe and Tim Hurtin’s restaurants. The XL Foods plant was owned by a group of cattle farmers.)

      (‘Baby formula’ can be made from different source stock, including by modifying cow milk and by a soy stock, much of both stocks in the US of course.
      Addition of anti-bacterial substance is being considered as cow milk has less of it than human milk.
      Formulas and ways of processing have evolved over decades.
      There is powdered ‘baby formula’, that’ll be much easier to ship but dependent on quality of water used to reconstitute.
      Beware that Brits use somewhat different terms than Americans.)

  6. Seems like an expensive exercise, but let’s see…ETAR to KIND, ~8.5 hours @ $23,811 per flight hour…78,000 pound load. Neglecting fuel stop or the big extra cost of an A-A refuel, if used, plus palletizing weight, deadheading back to somewhere, stuff like that…bare minimum, $2.60 per pound transport cost.

    The lactose intolerance stuff retails for nearly $30/pound, so I guess it isn’t so awful.

  7. Pardon my ignorance….

    How is there a shortage in the first place. Are the majority of new “birthing people” “identifying” as “non-mammalian”? It’s my understanding that the human animal produces a form of sustenance for infants that is in fact preferable to any substitute currently in existence. Sure, there will always be a statistically inconsequential segment of any given sub set that has medical issues and falls outside of the norm. If that segment has grown so large as to become a market force, we’ve got bigger problems than is there enough formula!
    But seriously this can’t be real. Somewhere somehow something isn’t right here.