Katrina was the largest and fastest mobilization of disaster response air operations in our nation's history. However, as a post event assessment identified there was little visibility or coordination of anything flying into or out of the New Orleans area in the first hours of the response. Massive amounts of personnel, equipment, and supplies were airlifted towards Louisiana, but some resources that arrived were overly duplicated while others needed were unable to land.
Based on these lessons learned, a two-year planning team worked from 2006-2008 to develop a DoD/DOT-FAA approved airspace management plan. This plan was based on an existing FAA slot-process used at some of the largest airports in the U.S. The plan identified a process that would provide flow control and visibility of all flights into or out of a disaster area, allowing for efficient coordination based on local, state, and federal prioritization of needs.
This plan was tested during the pre-landfall evacuation of persons prior to hurricane Gustav, but was truly proven during the disaster response air operations after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. This process will be used tomorrow if there is a catastrophic event in the United States, be it man made or natural disaster. All airport managers, local, state, and federal air operations organizations and agencies should have a basic understanding of this plan's slot-process to ensure immediate life-saving implementation.