ROTA, Spain, April 20, 2010 – Naval Station Rota and Moron Air Base in Spain have absorbed many U.S. military flights diverted from northern European routes by ash being spewed from an Iceland volcanic eruption.
Rota typically averages eight to 13 flights a day, but saw double that amount over the weekend. Moron Air Base usually averages one or two flights a day, but had about 10 times that number.
Navy Cmdr. Tom Eberhard, executive officer for Naval Station Rota, expressed confidence in the station’s ability to handle the challenge.
„Because of the incredible teamwork between our Navy and Air Force personnel, … we are able to meet this increased demand,“ he said. „We have some of the best sailors and airmen in the world. They are always focused on accomplishing the mission.“
Volcanic ash creates a cloud that is hazardous to engines. When absorbed into the engine, it can cause the engine to flame out. Air Mobility Command flights that usually traverse the northern European air route were diverted to the southern, Mediterranean route via Rota and Moron to avoid the hazard.
Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Cannon, deputy commander of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Group, said AMC has a fixed route infrastructure to handle its aircraft, and although it is a fixed route, it is very flexible.
„We are meeting U.S. Transportation Command requirements by flexing our capability to our fixed locations to handle the air flow,“ he said. „The men and women here at the 725th Air Mobility Squadron have adapted to meet the workload by increasing the work shifts and duty hours to handle the increase in traffic.“
A team of mechanics from bases not affected by the ash cloud was sent to Moron in conjunction with the 496th Air Base Squadron to work on planes as they transit from Europe and the United States.
„We love it when there are a lot of [aircraft] tails on the ramp,“ Cannon said. „Air mobility professionals take a lot of pride in the fact they are pushing a lot of cargo and men through the system to the fight and back to the states. The work load has doubled; we rolled up our sleeves and did the work.“
Cannon said the Navy is a wonderful partner in Rota. Naval Facilities Engineering Command provided a bus and driver to transport maintainers from Rota to Moron. „The support from the Navy at Rota, as usual, is phenomenal,“ he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)