End of an era for DETAIR
Lt. Anne-Claude Gouy
First published in
SFOR Informer#155, January 9, 2003
After ten years of good and faithful service, the SFOR
French Air Detachment (DETAIR) is leaving. By being the only
unit to have stayed so long, its story is linked to that of
the country, and its end means many changes for everybody,
civilians and military.
The departure of the DETAIR is completely appropriate
to Annex 1A of the General Framework Agreement for Peace
(GFAP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"The Parties understand and agree that the IFOR (SFOR)
Commander will implement the transfer to civilian control
of air space over Bosnia and Herzegovina to the appropriate
institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a gradual fashion
consistent with the objective of the IFOR (SFOR) to ensure
smooth and safe operation of an air traffic system upon
Sarajevo - An important and complete Transfer of Responsibility
(ToR) took place in Sarajevo at the end of the year. Indeed,
the SFOR French DETAIR is handing over to Sarajevo International
Airport everything concerning air traffic services within
Sarajevo terminal control area and control traffic area, and
airport operations including slot and parking area management.
The normalisation assessment is taking a big step forward.
Ten years ago
From 1992 until 1995, during the war, Sarajevo's airport was
managed completely by the French. In July 1992, the first
setting up of the DETAIR took place in Sarajevo, few days
after the air-bridge opening. It was created in order to ensure
the airport was operational for the UNHCR (United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees) and the UNPROFOR (United Nations
Protection Force). It had an important part during the war,
as much for the technical level and the human level. And that's
of course the reason why it was often a favourite target.
The current DETAIR Commander, Col. Jacques Robino, from the
French Air Force, isn't in Sarajevo for the first time. "I
was here in 1995 as a Team Chief of the Tactical Air Close
Party, and then in 1996, and I noticed a big change: the canon
fires stopped as we use to say. And it was a great relief,"
On Aug. 15, 1996, the civilian flights started up again, and
since that time, everything goes on thanks to a complete co-operation
between local people and SFOR soldiers.
"Since 1996, SFOR is giving back little by little some
missions to the civilian authorities," said French Capt.
Philippe Guyon, Air Traffic Control (ATC) Commander. This
progressive handover isn't so easy for everybody because the
civilian aviation get back the control of everything after
a ten years of interruption. "It is a matter for the
normalisation assessment. Every military controller had to
leave Sarajevo on Jan.1st, 2003. We were prepared to leave,
but we had particularly to prepare the civilian controllers,"
added Guyon. So, about 20 Bosnian Air Traffic Controllers
have been trained since 1997, and the SFOR soldiers are very
confident: "The young are very motivated to re-build
their country. We worked with different ethnic groups, and
there is no more animosity between them. The only thing that
they want to work for is the future of the country,"
told Guyon. He's aware of having a special mission by being
the last ATC Commander, and he hasn't forgotten the previous
ten years "This airport is full of history. Every job
done here is really palpable, anywhere I go."
So much history shared between the airport and the DETAIR,
between civilian and military, involves shared feelings. "It
is always sad to see a unit dissolved. It's special to live
these last moments. But it means that the peace comes back,
the life is going on better and better, and that is our best
motivation," said Robino. It's also for a practical reason:
the moving. The ToR means also a transfer of the buildings.
"There were 250 persons two years ago, 110 at the beginning
of December, and we will be about 40 for one month in order
to move everything."
And even in these particular conditions, civilian and military
continue to share a lot of things. For example, the DETAIR
dining facilities closed on Dec.15, so some of the soldiers
were eating at the airport. "All our habits changed.
We don't have any more privacy, sport facilities, we're living
closer to each other, but everybody is so busy with clearing
ten years of existence, it doesn't matter."
-15,000 movements each year from 1999 to 2001
- 300,000 civilians every year; 60,000 military every
Transit freight: 9t/day
Civilian freight: 18t/day
Approximately 85 VIPs each month
(A movement corresponds to a landing or a take-off).
In order to turn the page on these ten years, some personalities
had to sign contracts. The transfer of responsibility from
the SFOR to the local authorities took place at the end of
last year. The first contract, a technical arrangement was
signed on Dec. 20 by Maj. Gen. Jean-Pierre Meyer, DCOMSFOR,
Mr Besim Mehmedic, Minister of Transport and Communications
of Federation of BiH, and Mr Bakir Karahasanovic, General
Manager of Sarajevo International Airport. It concerned all
the ground handling services. The second one, confirmed on
Dec. 23, was an implementing arrangement about Air traffic
services and Air Operations. The General Manager gave to the
SFOR DETAIR the best congratulation by saying: "We will
try to do as well as the French soldiers did. We will be always
grateful to them."
"Our successors are able and competent. A big step to
the normalisation is made, also thanks to what our predecessors
did during 10 years in order to assume their mission, confided
by the United Nations, the IFOR and the SFOR," concluded
Robino. And the co-operation will go on since the civilian
will now check the military personal at the airport.
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work