AMC Charters

Having viewed the database that is updated by the federal government daily with hundreds or thousands of new contracts up for bid, I have noticed many contracts available that, for example, request something similar: “50,000 pounds of freight transported aboard heavy aircraft between Honolulu Airport and Kadena Airbase each Thursday.” It would specify a service period that might last one year, beginning in a few months.

I realize that that is one way in which the federal government charters heavy aircraft. However, my question is, do they also charter aircraft for short-term, spur of the moment flights? Is that how most of the AMC charters are determined? For instance, does the Transportation Command of the U.S. Air Force simply contact an airline which it suspects might have available aircraft for charter, and request a charter?

Yes, among Omni, North American, Miami Air, and Ryan there is almost always the right aircraft available.

Nothing is really all that simple when in comes to DOD. Of course, they like to make it more complicated than it is, but…!

The AMC charters, cargo and passengers, are part of the DOD commercial airlift augmentation program. It is related to the CRAF (Civil Reserve Airlift Fleet) program where the commercial companies put up planes that DOD can call on if there is ever an emergency where it simply has to take over the routing of planes to meet national emergencies. We rarely get to point, but to get companies to commit planes to the program, DOD, through AMC, agrees to give committing carriers’ cargo or passengers during peacetime (when will that happen…but really, anything short of full mobilization) under various types of contracts.

Some companies thrive on these contracts; others really don’t want them (regular commercial service, they feel, is more profitable) but they all play along.

Typically, AMC will use the planes over “requirement” or “frequency” channels, sort of major, major routes, like out of Dover AFB to Germany. DOD knows pretty much how much lift and how often planes will be required on these channels months ahead of the actual flights.

There are other routes that are as-needed, some more as-needed than others. Then there are some routes where the move might be one-flight only. I think DOD refers to both these types of requirements as “enhanced” service, but I’m not quite clear on that.

How a particular company’s plane is selected varies somewhat. Of course, the plane must be of the size DOD is looking for. Beyond that, the actual choice might be made specifically by DOD, or it might be a company “nominated” or picked by a carrier “alliance.” These alliances are something of a recent invention and help DOD get around the ever-increasing backruptcy problems of the industry. has a “military” forum that sometimes discusses all this. Do a search under “CRAF” and you might find more or better information than I’ve provided.