MIAMI – The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) has been activated for the third time in history to fly evacuees from Afghanistan to safe destinations. France, Germany, and Belgium have also taken similar action involving their own national airlines.

The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) is a cooperative, voluntary program involving the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the United States civil air carrier industry to augment DOD aircraft capability during a national defense-related crisis.

Air carriers volunteer their aircraft to the CRAF program through contractual agreements with US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), based at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. In exchange, the participating carriers are given first priority in handling commercial cargo and passenger traffic for the Department of Defense during peacetime.

The CRAF has been activated two times in history. The first time was in 1991 during the Desert Storm operations and the second in 2002 during the Gulf war. To help evacuate refugees, six US airlines have been requested to deploy a total of 18 aircraft and operate from airports outside Afghanistan, either in Qatar or Pakistan.

Delta Airlines Airbus 300-300 N8916NW. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Six US Airlines, 18 Aircraft Deployed

The CRAF stems from a joint agreement between the aforementioned departments launched on December 15, 1951, at the time of the Berlin air bridge during the cold war blockade of the city. The aircraft types deployed varies from Boeing 767 and 777 to Airbus A330 or A340.

In detail, United Airlines (UA) has deployed four aircraft, Delta Air Lines (DL), American Airlines (AA), Atlas Air (5Y), Omni Air (OY) three each, and Hawaiian Airlines (HA) deploying two machines. None of these flights will operate within the Afghan airspace but will pick up people who have already been evacuated from Kabul (KBL).

On its part, Southwest Airlines (WN) announced today it would begin assisting the DOD in chartering Afghan refugees across the United States on Monday. WN will fly four flights every day this week, according to a statement obtained by Fox News.

Since August 14, the United States has evacuated or assisted in the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people, according to the Associated Press.

Atlas Air Boeing 767-300ER N645GT. Photo: Julian Schöpfer/Airways

European Airlines Deployed

In a similar approach, certain European countries like Germany, France, Switzerland, and Belgium, have taken similar actions.

France has deployed military or government transport aircraft while Lufthansa (LH), Swiss (LX), and Air Belgium (KF) are operating chartered flights on behalf of the government. These carriers operate either from Pakistan or from Uzbekistan.

Article source: FlightRadar24, Travel Weekly

Featured image: United Airlines Boeing 777-300 N2747U. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways