Charter service transports fallen service members

  • Published
  • By Staff Sergeant Andrew J. Alvarado
  • Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

Once fallen service members have been prepared and casketed, they depart Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, for their final resting place via hearse for distances typically within 350 miles, or plane, if further. One company has led the effort to this final step as part of a reverse dignified transfer since receiving the contract with U.S. Transportation Command and has supported the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations mission for more than 13 years.

“It is not a mission we particularly enjoy, considering the circumstances surrounding it, but it is very fulfilling to be entrusted with the final transport of the deceased,” said Robert D’Alimonte, Kalitta Charters director of sales. “We are honored and humbled by being continually selected, year after year, to return the fallen heroes to their families with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Preparation begins with servicing the aircraft the day before a flight. The aircrew arrives early on the day of departure to review flight plans and coordinate with the operations center.

“Once loaded, the captain calculates the weight and balance and calls that information into our operations center,” said D’Alimonte. “Then, a pre-flight briefing is given to the escort, and the second in command calls to get the departure clearance from the tower.”

Every aspect of the flight process guarantees a smooth transition from the mortuary to an airport closest to the location requested. The Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft enables transport for fallen service members to smaller regional airports. Almost every seasoned pilot under the Kalitta wing has provided their expertise to this mission.

“Crewing the Dover mission is a duty assignment that all appropriately rated pilots at Kalitta have done at least once during their employment unless they specifically request not to,” said D’Alimonte.

A streamlined planning system and continuity of experienced crew members enables AFMAO’s Command, Control and Communication section a reassurance of timing reliability as they start the coordination process for the flight.

“The C3 section sends a request for an itinerary and provides mission quality checks for accuracy of the request and timing,” said Lucas Rigdon, C3 mortuary control center specialist. “Kalitta coordinates directly with Tanker Airlift Control Center Special Airlift Assignment Mission planners to ensure timely mission creation and input into the Department of Defense’s Transcom system.”

The primary goal of each separate function is ultimately to ensure families can rely on background processes. This tandem effort brings a logistical peace of mind to the families while preparing for their loved one’s final return.

“Remains arrive for planned funeral events with little to no deviations of the scheduled mission,” said Lucas. “This allows the family to pay their final respects without hindrance.”