Operations Pyramid well on the way


Air Force Chief Jen Tan Sri Rodzali Daud giving media briefing on

Air Force Chief Jen. Tan Sri Rodzali Daud TUDM updated the Malaysian media on ‘Operation Pyramid’, launched 2 Feb 2011 @ 1600hrs from TUDM Subang and MISC vessel Bunga Mas 5 from Bay of Eden. ATM committed 3 C130H transporters.

Accompanying him is Air Operations Commander Lt. Jen. Dato’ Ackbal A. Samad TUDM.

The limitations are operational issues (distance between Egypt and Malaysia which is 4,000 nautical miles) and diplomatic clearances, being military aircrafts to be able to get clearance from eight different countries in the flight path all the way. Example is when the soonest the TUDM got airspace clearance of the Indian Ocean via Maldives, the three ‘Charlies’ flew directly to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates despite no clearance to fly through Saudi Arabia and landing rights in Jeddah. Visa for TUDM personnel to enter Saudi Arabia initially also had some problems.

Jen. Rodzali as the Operations Director also briefed that TUDM was not funded for such operations. As such, the National Security Council funding was utilised.

Jeddah was used as a staging base for the Ops Pyramid because of the proximity as it is 2hr 50mins to Cairo and 3hrs to Alexandria. It is the most efficient way to extract the 14,000 odd Malaysians now under emergency and high risk situation. From Jeddah, it is easier to dispatch them home. In transit, they would be lodged at the Tabung Haji facility near the airport.

Three sets of crew for each aircrafts were deployed to ensure the operations is able to be carried out around the clock. Nine daily sorties between Cairo and Alexandria and Jeddah are planned.


Loading Malaysians into a C130H via tail ramp @ Cairo International Airport in 'Ops Pyramid'

So far 1,211 have been safely evacuated. By day’s end, it is expected that 2,606 Malaysians, majority of them students. With the participation of these TUDM aircrafts, the evacuation of Malaysians is made faster.

Other operational issues are the air congestion in Jeddah and Cairo. These aircrafts, bearing military status and registrations faced problems such as lengthy holding pattern. The turnaround time in Cairo and Alexandria is also a major problem. The targeted 8 Feb may be extended due to the operations.

According to Jen. Rodzali, the co-ordination (which include synchronising between TUDM, Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and ground movement of Malaysians in Egypt) in of evacuation of Malaysians in Cairo is being carried Secretary to the MKN Dato’ Mohd. Thajudeen Abd. Wahab. The Malaysian Embassy Defense Attache’ based in Amman, Jordan was dispatched to assist the operations.

All in all, 160 TUDM and army personnel are stationed in Jeddah for the operations. When asked, Jen. Rodzali said their morale is very high and they see this operation as an act of patriot.

Army medical team and members of the chaplain corp (KAGAT) also participating, as part of the support team for Ops Pyramid. The detachment commander in Jeddah  is Col. Mutalib Abdul Wahab TUDM. Jen Rodzali also agreed that close diplomatic and working relations between Malaysia and Saudi enabled the operations to commence soon and seamlessly.

By comparison, Indonesians are not able to provide the same service for their trapped nationals in Egypt. In fact, they have requested Malaysian’s assistance to evacuate their nationals in the same predicament as these 14,000 Malaysians in burning Egypt.

Jen. Rodzali is confident that Malaysians could be fully evacuated by 9 or 10 February. Never the less, they are ready to extend ‘Ops Pyramid’ till 12 February.

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Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 14:55  Comments (4)  

Operations Pyramid: A logistical nightmare

The riot to pressure Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign and leave in Cairo has now dwindled into a situation much horrified. It is a lawless scenario where rampant rioting and  looting spiraled into total blackout of communications and curfew imposed. Phone lines and internet have now become non existence.

Amongst those affected are 14,000 Malaysians, mostly students which numbered 11,000. Majority of them are Federal Government sponsored students, specifically MARA.

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak instructed that Wisma Putra co-ordinate trapped Malaysians to be evacuated from Egypt. First to be deployed is RMAF C-130H transporters from No. 20 squadron based in TUDM Subang. RMN frigates serving operations in the Indian Ocean for piracy patrol were also deployed to provide support for ferrying the trapped Malaysians via sea.



Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia joined Wisma Putra’s co-ordinate ‘Operation Pyramid’ in the evacuation. Malaysia Airlines committed 2 B747-400s whilst AirAsia committed an A330-200 for the operation. Despite facing diplomatic bureaucracy and landings rights for the Government initiated evacutaion, first Malaysians were successfully evacuated from Cairo landed in Jeddah earlier today.


Malaysia Airlines B747-400

These aircrafts supposed to fly at least 9 to 12 flights between Cairo and Alexandria to Jeddah. The B747-400s are designed to carry 400 passengers where else the A340 is supposed to carry 290 passengers and the C-130Hs are able to carry 200 passengers per flight. That means that maximum, only 1690 passengers are able to be evacuated any givenr day from Cairo or any destination to Jeddah (the transit point for the operations before being flown back to Malaysia).

Realistically, that is a nine day operations. To ferry the aircraft to and from Kuala Lumpur to Cairo via Jeddah, roughly 460-500,000 litres of aviation Jet A1 is required per day. That makes a sum of 4.25 million litres of highly flammable kerosene fuel. At international cost of RM 3.20 per litre, that is RM 14 million in just fuel bill alone. That does not include 18 pilots, 9 license aircraft maintenance engineers and 42-45 cabin crews required daily.

Upload of meals from Jeddah for the 7 hr 45 mins flight home would easily cost RM 320.00 per pax (USD 100.00). That is RM 3.5 million bill.

Other cost include ferrying relieve/relay crew, landing and parking operations, the temporary lodging and food for Malaysians in Jeddha (currently, housed at Tabung Haji’s transit facility Midanatul Hujaj near the King Abdul Aziz Airport) and cost to co-ordinate the operation. The maintenance cost would be exorbitant as Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and especially TUDM requires more care for their birds in a high frequency operation such as this. Reinstatement of communications within Egypt and Egypt to the outside world would termendously improve the situation.

‘Ops Pyramid’ is a serious effort. Malaysians should not complain this herculean effort. Especially when ‘earth is literally moved’ to get these trapped Malaysians out.



Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 00:45  Comments (9)