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Humanitarian aid flights to Vanuatu underway

written by australianaviation.com.au | March 16, 2015

An RAAF C-17 Globemaster leaves Amberley for Vanuatu. (Defence)
An RAAF C-17 departs Amberley for Vanuatu. (Defence)

Australia has started humanitarian flights from its Amberley and Richmond bases to Port Vila, delivering much needed supplies to the devastated nation following Tropical Cyclone Pam.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said on Sunday two RAAF C-17A Globemaster aircraft were delivering critical humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies to Vanuatu.

Andrews said the humanitarian aid flights, which carried items such as hygiene kits, blankets, sleeping mats, shelter kits, insect nets, water storage buckets and water purification tablets, were expected to continue for several days.

Meanwhile, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and emergency evaluation personnel were also on the ground in Port Vila to “gather valuable information that will guide the types and priority of Australian Government aid to Vanuatu”, having made their way there on a RAAF C-130J Hercules on Sunday.

And a RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft was headed to northern Vanuatu for imagery reconnaissance flights. One AP-3C Orion was already in the Solomon Islands.


“I am assured by Defence that our contribution to the DFAT-led mission is positioned to expand as the situation in Vanuatu becomes clearer,” Andrews said in a statement.

“Nationally, Defence assets remain on standby to provide further assistance, however the immediate priority is to move life-saving aid to Vanuatu and to assist their officials to understand what specialist capabilities are needed and who is best placed to provide those assets and materials.

“Our thoughts remain with those who are affected by these natural disasters, including those here in Australia.”

Eight people have been killed and 150,000 affected as Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through the Pacific Island nation, one of the worst natural disasters to have ever struck the region.

RAAF C130J Hercules near Port Vila Airport. (Defence)
A RAAF C-130J approaches Port Vila Airport. (Defence)
Humanitarian aid from Australia for Vanuatu at Port Vila Airport. (Defence)
Humanitarian aid from Australia for Vanuatu at Port Vila Airport. (Defence)

Aid supplies to the country will also be helped with the resumption of commercial flights to Vanuatu.

Air Vanuatu said on Monday its fleet was now preparing to return to Port Vila, having been moved offshore to Sydney and Noumea prior to the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Pam.

Four flights were scheduled for Monday – two flights from Sydney to Port Vila, one flight from Port Vila to Sydney and another from Port Vila to Brisbane.

The airline said on its Facebook page its domestic fleet was also returning to Vanuatu and “will be operational soon”.

“We are overwhelmed with offers of support from the international community and thank our customers for their understanding as we work to get people home safely as soon as possible,” Air Vanuatu said in a statement.

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Comments (14)

  • William


    In light of the recent humanitarian efforts by the C-17 fleet, it would be extremely hard not justify purchasing another two airframes on top of the two that have had money set aside for.

  • Keef


    Outstanding effort by the RAAF and RNZAF, extra C17s would be a bonus but what is truly lacking by both forces is something to get into the smaller strips on outlying islands……..its a pity several governments procrastinated here in Australia for so long over a Caribou replacement.

  • Robert Visser


    Paramedic for 33years on long service leave wish to help have friends in Tanna and on main island port Villa

  • Neil Hansford


    Why not send HMAS Canberra to Vanuatu to do a proper shake out of its helicopter fleet and potential to deploy amphibious craft for outer islands plus its hospital facilities. Oh silly me the Admirals and generals haven’t christened the dining rooms!

  • B. Harrison


    As previously stated by another contributor, the purchase of 4 (not 2) additional C-17’s is a no brainer when it comes to Australia and it’s ability to project influence and assistance in our region. These aircraft have been by far, the most practical, efficient and well received aircraft that the RAAF has received in a very long time. An example of how procurement when done properly, can be such a positive, when ironically in the same news, the N.Z Air Force has just had the first of the ex-RAN Seasprites delivered which was a billion dollar fiasco.

  • Willie Apia


    Aid needs to get to the outer islands including Epi. We are 10 men in Australia working as seasonal workers and have had no news or contact of our families since Friday 13 12:30 pm, before cyclone pam hit. It is very hard and we have tried the australian embassy but it doesn’t really help Ni Vans with finding out about families that have been affected by the cyclone. We don’t know what we can do.
    Does anyone have news of Lamen Bay Epi?

  • Tom


    A great capability for Australia and our neighbors. Another 4 C17’s for the RAAF please

  • Rob


    Re Neil’s comment about sending HMAS Canberra.

    No can do.

    Neither the ship nor the air crews and assets are within cooee of operational availability, and won’t be for quite some time.

    There is no such thing as a “proper shake out” of helicopter crews: operating embarked helos is a great deal more complex than it seems, and cannot be rushed just to feed media disaster porn or to placate the Twitterati.

    However, the RAN is part of the picture, with HMAS Tobruk taking stores at Townsville and getting underway ASAP.

  • Chris


    Whatever the final no of C17A ERs the RAAF ends up with they had better decide, get funding approval for and order soon because the 279th and final aircraft is on the assembly line. It closes later this year. We have already ordered 2 of the 10 aircraft Boeing built on spec. Other operators like Canada, India and the UK are interested. Plus a few in the ME.

  • John


    The C17’s are a priceless asset and we need more, 4 more would be brilliant.. I wonder though if its time to look at the V22 as well. The combination of the both aircraft would be a winner I’m sure.

  • Chris


    The UAE has signed for 2 more C17A ERs so the no of White Tails is 6 or less. I think NZ is realistically going to end up with A400Ms or C130?s. I agree with John about the V22, especially the CV22B because it has more internal fuel and the telescoping aerial refuelling probe comes standard. In STOL mode the typical internal payload is similar to the C27J. The RAAF paid a similar price for the Spartan to the Osprey. The latter could do COD too the LHDs. With the problems the Taipans are having, too narrow seats, cannot use MGs whilst rappelling and cannot flare nevermindg the non standard hook. I think 6 Avn should be equipped with CV22Bs for TAGE and TAGW. The Taipans should be divided evenly amongst the 3 FT Army Bdes and additional Strike Hawks or MH60S acquired for the RAN.The latter can do Mine Warfare.
    The Spartan requires 2k’ runways I.e. 610m. The V22 STOL is closer too the Caribou ~200m. An advantage in HADR like Vanuatu now. The multiple hook VTOL mode is like having helicopters in theatre also. Unfortunately the V22 appears to be too long for both LHD aircraft elevators when folded. I made these points in my submission to the 2015 White Paper.

  • Adrian


    Any reason why the ADF does not appear to consider an amphibious capability in their procurement program?

  • Rob


    Chris, the aft lift in the LHD can take the Osprey in both size, when folded, and weight. Furthermore, the dedicated flight deck spot can take it, as can the hangar, in both weight and deckhead numbers.

    There are noconsiderations or plans for ADF Ospreys, and that is most unlikely to change.

  • Chris


    Thanks Rob. I knew the weight was not a problem. I will wait until they try a V22 on the aft lift to see whether it can move one between decks without the overhang behind the landing gear striking something. The forward elevator is long enough for a Chinook without aerial refuelling probe. The aft elevator has the same overhang issues with it. A Chinook using the aft elevator might possibly work facing aft because of the arrangement of the landing gear in relation too the fuselage. The Army Aviation plans will have too change given the issues with the Taipan, Blackhawk imminent withdrawal and not enough CH47Fs for 3 FT Bdes + maintenance and training never mind an attrition reserve.
    Does anybody know whether a CH53K King Stallion will fit? I cannot find folded dimensions for it anywhere in the public domain.

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