By 2nd Lt. Bruno Mnard
First published in
SFOR Informer#122, September 19, 2001
the end of the track, an Air Bosna plane gets ready to take off.
It is waiting for permission from the control tower. On the other
side of the track, military radar watches the trajectory of every
plane that lands or takes off at Sarajevo's airport. The men of
DETAIR (French Air Force Detachment) are true professionals, and
they are responsible for a number of tasks.
- The French Air Force Detachment, under the authority of the
Multinational Division-South East (MND-SE), is organised as a
real air base. There are 229 people who work on the base, among
which are 139 French airmen, 13 Germans, 32 Moroccans and 45 civilians.
Runways are open from 7 a.m. till 9 p.m., but it is possible to
open them approximately 30 minutes after making a request. The
current activity of the airport is about the same as before the
war. There has also been a stabilisation in the activities since
2000, due to the return of normal traffic. All the civilian companies
that land in Sarajevo are from European countries: Austria, BiH,
Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey.
main missions of DETAIR, according to an agreement signed in 1998
with the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) of the country, are:
the implementation and the security of the airport; the transit
operation for the benefit of SFOR and the UN; and the reception
and the protection of very important persons (VIPs). Another important
task is to ensure the progressive transfer of these duties to
the DCA. Two secondary missions have been added to the previous
ones: the support of the specialised units and of passage, and
the transit operation of any military plane.
DETAIR's many facets
|A little history
April 1992: beginning of the war, Sarajevo siege
June 1992: airport lent to the UN
June 29, 1992: landing of the first plane (French C160)
July 1992: implementation of the first DETAIR
Dec. 12, 1995: passage under NATO command
Aug. 15, 1996: landing of the first civilian plane
Sept. 18, 1998: signature of the current agreement fixing
the main mission of DETAIR.
From 1992 till 1995, during the war, Sarajevo's
airport was managed completely by the French. Now, a big part
of the job has been restored to the civilians, but the French
detachment still remains present to ensure air control and security.
Actually, according to Col. Denis Messmer, DETAIR commander, "We
are still here for a certain time." DETAIR works in close
collaboration with the DCA. "We have an excellent relationship
with the civilian authorities of the airport, but there is a lack
of means at the local level," specified Messmer. The
transfer of security and the protection of the airport are on
the right track; on the other hand, the transfer of the air and
operational control remains unsure. But he added: "Here,
there are only professionals. We are above all specialists. Everybody
knows what he has to do." The staff is assigned for four
months, except for the medical service, which changes every two
the French airmen, other people participate in the life of the
airport and in its security. DETAIR has its own fire brigades
which train regularly, sometimes with the civilian firemen. They
are true professionals themselves, even if they still have no
knowledge of the aeronautical environment. The Air Force Police
do the same work as the Military Police. Sent also for four months,
the four French non-commissioned officers and three German "Feldjäger"
(military police in German) ensure the same mission as on an air
base, which is security. They are mainly in charge of the safety
of the VIPs, who are usually generals, ambassadors, ministers
and chiefs of state. They are also in contact with public relations
officers, and in charge of welcoming them.
|Some key figures
- 43 movements/day, that means 16,000 movements/year, among
which 45% are civilian.
- 170 servicemen/day
- 350,000 civilians/year
Transit freight: 9t/day
Civilian freight: 3t/day
Approximately 94 VIP's per month
(A movement corresponds to a landing or a takeoff)..
At the meteorological office, WO Gilles Bertheaume
recognises that he "performs the same tasks as in France,
with practically the same means." Weather forecasts are sent
to various organisations three times a day.
tries hard to give more responsibilities to the civilian staff,
who should some day take over the airport completely. Some of
the transfer of responsibility has already been realised. The
clearing of snow, the sweeping, care for the civilian plane park
and the provisioning of all the aircraft are tasks now left to
On the other hand, air control stays for the moment under the
responsibility of the French. Capt. Laurent Mauget-Rousseau, the
air control chief, explained that, since February 2000, "DETAIR
is charged with the training of civilian controllers. This year,
10 civilian controllers are in training, and should obtain their
certificate at the end of September."
But, in order to be autonomous, there should be 21 on the whole,
and this figure will not be reached for the moment. The transfers
of security (concerning the civil help plans) and protection (involving
the State Border Service, SBS) are foreseen at the end of this
At present, six civilians of the Air Information Office (AIO)
are training. There is some talk about a possible withdrawal of
the French from the strategic jobs of the airport next summer.
The presence of DETAIR thus remains, for the moment, indispensable.
It is the only organisation capable of maintaining the level of
security of the airport and ensuring the implementation of airport
procedures, while continuing the transfer of its abilities to
the civil authorities.
Humanitarian help from DETAIR
Nations of SFOR: France,
Related link: SFOR