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Aerial spray for Hurricane Harvey relief

  • Published
  • By Eric White
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing has been tasked with providing its unique aerial spray capability to assist with recovery efforts in eastern Texas, following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

The 910th Airlift Wing operates the Department of Defense’s only aerial spray capability to control pest insect populations, eliminate undesired and invasive vegetation and disperse oil spills in large bodies of water. Due to large amounts of standing, polluted water, populations of pest insects that can transmit diseases are increasing significantly, posing a health risk to rescue workers and residents of Houston. Authorities have requested the 910th Airlift Wing to potentially treat more than six million affected acres.

Four Air Force Reserve C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 757th Airlift Squadron here, and nearly 70 Reserve Citizen Airmen are scheduled to fly to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas this Friday to begin aerial spray applications in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control.

On any given day, nearly 6,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen are serving on active duty worldwide in support of combatant commanders and other agencies and major commands.

This mission will primarily target mosquitoes which are capable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, Zika and various types of encephalitis. Increased populations of these pest insects can eventually lead to individual cases or widespread outbreak of these diseases. The pest insects can also hinder recovery workers, resulting in less time in the field.

With recent training and capability enhancements, the aerial spray flight is now able to operate throughout the night using night vision goggles. This new capability increases the flight’s best case spray capacity from approximately 60 thousand acres per day to approximately 190 thousand acres per day. Spray missions are normally conducted at dusk and nighttime hours when pest insects are most active.

The 910th’s customized Modular Aerial Spray System is capable of a wide-variety of applications. For mosquito control, the system uses the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved and regulated material naled, which is not used in amounts large enough to cause any concern for human health, according to the EPA. The system disperses droplets small enough to land on a mosquito’s wing, using less than one ounce of naled per acre. That’s less than one shot glass for an area the size of a football field.

In 2008, the 910th Airlift Wing supported FEMA by treating 2,880,662 acres over Louisiana and Texas to eliminate mosquitoes in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That effort was the largest aerial spray mission ever conducted under Air Force Reserve Command. This new tasking for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts is expected to significantly surpass previous missions in scope.

The Air Force Reserve is comprised of nearly 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen and will continue to innovate new ways in vital areas of defense to protect the United States.