Airport Area Secure Enough For Limited Flight Ops
Military officials say an American C-130 touched
down at Baghdad airport Sunday, the first plane to land since US
forces seized the field early on Friday.
"At least one aircraft has landed at the airport," said the
senior source in the US 3rd Infantry Division's aviation brigade,
who was at the airport.
He said the C-130 Hercules landed at around 8 p.m. local time,
about an hour after dark, on the western, military side of the
It was not immediately clear whether the plane was carrying a
load or was testing the landing strip which had been slightly
damaged by American bombing during Friday's assault on what was
formerly known as Saddam International Airport.
Coalition forces seized the airport, some 12 miles southwest of
the city center, on Friday. They then said they had renamed it
Baghdad International Airport. On Sunday, US forces said they
controlled practically all road access to the capital, too.
The source said earlier the US could land up to three aircraft
at the airport after dark on Sunday. A Reuters correspondent at the
airport said he heard anti-aircraft and artillery fire from western
districts of Baghdad a while after the plane landed, but this
appeared random rather than aimed specifically at the airport. He
said there was heavy responding US artillery fire.
Making It Usable Again
The military side of the airport sustained some damage during
Friday's capture, but the US military source said the Hercules had
landed safely on a taxiway.
A team of military engineers had already started work to repair
three small bomb craters on the
runway. The eastern, civilian, side of the airport
is more exposed to potential incoming Iraqi fire from the direction
Col. John Peabody, commander of the Engineer Brigade of the 3rd
Infantry Division, said earlier that the US had positioned 7,000
troops at the airport and was moving quickly to establish a small
military village there.
Analysts have said the airport is a key strategic catch for
US-led forces in their 18-day-old campaign to overthrow Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.
Once cleared and fully secured, the airport is likely to be used
to bring in troops, equipment and supplies, easing pressure on a
long and vulnerable supply chain that stretches to Kuwait in the