We gave you an insight into EATC’s aeromedical evacuations during the pandemic and a first outlook into the training for 2021. Let’s now check-up with Colonel José Nieto, Head of EATC’s operational division, how the pandemic impaired EATC’s operational business.
Colonel Nieto, how did the number of missions develop during the past months of the Covid-19 crisis?
Immediately after the outbreak of Covid, a significant reduction in the number of missions was observed. Non-essential missions, such as trainings, were cancelled. Nations gave priority to repatriate EU citizens back to Europe and to get urgently medical supplies delivered, especially from China. Then the number of aeromedical evacuations increased, as we also had to evacuate COVID-19 infected patients.
When the situation became more controlled, the number and nature of missions returned back to “normal”. Today the numbers of missions are comparable to previous years. However the complexity and last moment changes of logistic missions are higher as we are still confronted with pandemic-caused limitations.
How did your division made sure to adapt swiftly to the crisis situation and to continue guaranteeing a responsive operational support to the member nations?
After the outbreak, the situation evolved rapidly and very unpredictably : airports and, even airspaces, were closed, opened and closed again from one day to another. Restrictions for landing, overflying, remaining overnight or movement of personnel were put in place without previous warning. EATC’s operational division had quickly to adapt to this situation and to decide how to manage the missions. So we looked for information in any available means: aeronautical information pages, national sources, experiences from other crews, and even news on internet served to create “a picture of the situation”. Routes or destinations had to be continuously revised to the restrictions, and, when needed, also the requirements for augmented crews.
EATC’s mission control center was a central point and key element of this process. They distributed first-hand information that they received from crews and thus created a database with all information available.
What are your lessons learned after nine months of pandemic?
EATC has to quickly adapt at all moment to crisis situation to guarantee the required level of service. During a pandemic, flexibility and “innovative solutions” are more than ever the key to success.
I do not want to talk about “lessons learned”, but about our capacity to react to new situations. As an example we adapted without delay to adjusted means of communication. This was of utmost importance because when a situation changes, the quick exchange of information between us and the multiple national actors is vital to guarantee the success of the mission.
Our aim is to ensure at any time that our group of professionals is very well prepared, proactive and tireless in their effort to accomplish the assigned mission. We have succeeded in the past 10 years and I am certain we will do so in future.