By Larry Shaughnessy
Seventeen of the biggest Air Force cargo jets are forming an air bridge from Southern California to the New York City region to carry electric repair crews and their equipment to assist Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
The 69 vehicles on the flights belong to Southern California Edison. The trucks and the power crews were being flown Thursday to New York’s Stewart Air National Guard Base on five C-5 Galaxys and 12 C-17 Globemaster jets, according Air Force news release.
The first jet was scheduled to land at Stewart about 4 p.m.
The equipment will be used to help restore power to customers in New York state and New Jersey.
Those areas have already been getting help from power companies closer to New York, but using the cargo jets means the trucks can get to the heart of the storm-ravaged region in a matter of hours instead of days.
"There's been a lot of mutual aid to bring in more utility crews from surrounding areas as far south and west as California, those crews that can drive in that can get in relatively fast, have driven in," FEMA Director Craig Fugate said Thursday. "But we still have some equipment teams on the west coast that the concern was still 3-5 days transit time to get them to the east coast. There was also concern with their fire season, that if they couldn't get back to their fire season once that gets going, then they wouldn't be able to send the resources. So the President directed that we bring to bear DOD resources, aircraft."