BAY ST. LOUIS — For the second time in five years, Stennis International Airport (KHSA) is serving the Gulf Coast as the aviation support center for another ecological disaster cleanup effort.
The first was Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and now the current British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill that is threatening the habitat and economy of the gulf.
Bill Cotter, airport director at Stennis International, said, “I think we’re a great example of how a strong general aviation airport serves its community and region during good times and when times are challenging.”
Since the initial efforts began in early May to contain and disburse the growing oil spill from reaching the gulf shores, Stennis International has become the staging area for civilian and military aircraft to fight the growing oil slick and prevent it from endangering the delicate gulf shoreline. In the critical first days of the relief effort, Stennis staff was pumping more than 23,000 gallons daily, or four tanker trucks, of jet fuel into support aircraft.
Responders have been flying operations out of Stennis from dawn to dusk since the spill begin to disperse the spill with thousands of gallons of dispersant to contain the spill and protect the delicate coastal environment. Aircraft ranging in size up to C-130Hs from the Air Force Reserves 910th Airlift Wing and the Marine Spill Response Corp have been using the general aviation airport.
Five years ago, Stennis International was the epicenter of aviation relief efforts when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastal communities. Within eight hours of the initial storm surge, Stennis become operational again as hundreds of flight began arriving to bring critical relief supplies to the hurricane ravaged region.
AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery team deployed emergency communications vehicles at Stennis to support air and ground control communications at the airport during the initial hours following the hurricane. The adjacent Stennis Space Center and employees from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston served in various volunteer roles to disperse equipment and supplies while assisting medical first responders in helping load injured residents onto transport aircraft for flights to medical facilities within the region.
International Aid used Stennis International as its delivery and staging area to help disperse more than $40 million in disaster relief packs, infant supplies and personal care products.