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Base welcomes first commercial aircraft


Release Date: 6/13/2003

by 2nd Lt. Gerardo Gonzalez 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

6/13/2003 - TALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- At 9:55 a.m. June 12, a small turbo-prop aircraft made history here as it became the first commercial cargo plane to land at the southern Iraqi base.

The small, 10-passenger Raytheon Beechcraft 1900, operated by Falcon Express Cargo Airlines from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, made the first of future "official business only" deliveries.

"We're bringing the 21st century into Iraq," said Capt. Gary Jackson, operations officer for the 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"This is the first contracted civilian airline we've had since we secured the air base," said Maj. Seann Cahill, 407th ELRS commander. "It sets a precedence here and I hope it sets it for the rest of the world. We're hoping it will be impetus for us to get the attention of the civilian airlines for things like rotator flights."

The arrival of the tiny cargo plane brings in a mission benefit many times its size. According to Cahill, regularly scheduled deliveries to Tallil will significantly reduce the average time it takes to receive parts. Currently, ordered parts take 10 days to two weeks to arrive; however, using a civilian contract carrier to deliver parts now cuts the delivery time to four or five days.

While this was the first delivery to Tallil and the first flight into Iraq for the three-person crew, it was certainly not the first delivery that Falcon Express has made in the country, said co-pilot Andrew Bailey. Bailey said the Dubai-based airline has already been delivering packages to Kirkuk Air Base for some time.

"It's great," said Bailey. "We didn't get shot down, and didn't get lost."

"I had no concerns about flying in here," said Jose Monzon Jr., the aircraft's flight engineer.

"If it happens, it happens," said Monzon about the perceived dangers of flying into Iraq.

Falcon Express is scheduled to make three deliveries per week, Cahill said.

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