- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The nation's airlines this week started carrying troops to the Persian Gulf after the Defense Department invoked a rarely used law to requisition commercial airliners for military transport in times of emergency.
"The measure is necessary due to increased operations associated with the buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region," the Defense Department said in a statement.
The order late Saturday was the second time the Defense Department has mobilized the Civil Reserve Air Fleet under authority of a 1951 law. The first time was in 1991 for the Persian Gulf war.
The Defense Department is calling into service 78 commercial aircraft: 47 passenger airplanes and 31 wide-body cargo planes. For now, the military plans to use only the passenger airplanes. It has enough cargo planes of its own.
There are 11 airlines participating in the first phase of mobilization. They are American Airlines, American Trans Air, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, North American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Omni Air International, United Airlines, US Airways and World Airways.
Defense Department officials said their military operation is a higher priority than keeping the planes free for commercial aviation during the troop buildup.
"The safety of our troops and the safety of the aircraft is our highest concern," said Navy Capt. Stephen Honda, spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Command, at Scott Air Force Base in western Illinois.
The Defense Department plans to use the commercial airplanes for at least 30 days, beginning Saturday, when the order was issued. "At the end of 30 days, we'll make a reassessment," Capt. Honda said.
If the need arises for a faster troop deployment, the Defense Department might requisition additional aircraft. "That is always an option," Capt. Honda said.
Airline officials are prohibited by the Defense Department from discussing details of their role in the mobilization.
Arlington-based US Airways has contributed two Airbus A330s for military transport. Each plane seats 262 passengers on commercial flights.
The Defense Department is reimbursing the airlines for an undisclosed amount.
"That's a proprietary matter," said US Airways spokesman Dave Castelveter.
Other airlines are equally secretive about their contracts with the Defense Department.
"Clearly, we can't get into a lot of specifics," said Todd Burke, American Airlines spokesman.

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