Operation Air Care
Largest-Ever Airlift Under Way
It's being billed as the largest airlift in U.S. history and it's bringing relief to tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina's victims. Operation Air Care swung into high gear over the weekend, with dozens of commercial airliners, flying VFR, bringing tons of food, clothing, medical supplies and other necessities to storm-ravaged New Orleans. Then, the planes are loading up with passenger to take them to refugee centers as far away as Chicago. "Starting virtually from scratch, we've worked to put together the largest air lift on U.S. soil in history to get supplies in and take people out of New Orleans," said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "We are going to keep at this for as long as necessary to make sure we get as many people safely out of New Orleans by air as possible." Before the airlift could begin, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport had to be put back in useable condition. Immediately after the storm, only one runway was useable and just barely. DOT personnel cleared two runways, rounded up generators, set up a temporary tower, got satellite communications going and put runway, taxiway and ramp lighting back online to get the airport operational. It's still VFR only, however, and there are reports that fixed-wing aircraft are not allowed in the area after dark.