Re: Aid for Afghanistan [Rice Dropping in Laos tag]

From: Terry W. Colvin (
Date: Tue Jan 01 2002 - 23:05:23 MST

"Michael M. Butler" wrote:
> > Fundamental mistake number 2 is to ignore the cultural background of other
> > people. Peanut butter in food packets for example, with written
> > instructions in several western languages. (1) Afghans don't know peanut
> > butter, nor is it a usefull food for starving people. (2) 48% of the men
> > and 78% of the women are illiterate. (3) There're a dozen or so different
> > languages in that country.
> Not all problems have solutions (find all the roots of a fifth order equation).
> The airdrops were a gesture, like cradling a deer's head in your lap after
> you hit it with your car. Not meaningless, but not directly very effective.
> Spend months tooling up to produce packages in the correct languages
> and people do without that food for that time. Producing the "correct" food
> would take a year or more. It's a no-win given the specific circumstances.
> The US could get into the "relief food" business in a big way, though, and
> even one libertarian-leaning think tank has suggested something of the sort.
> US foreign policy can't get un-fucked-up in one administration's term. I hope it
> can improve through the next decade or two.
> ObExtro:
> New drop bags should be designed with voice output, mass downloaded before drop.
> This of course could mean that people with guns will hear the peanut-butter
> whispering and take the food away from the hungry...
> <sarcasm>
> I know! Let's import a numerical majority of civilized Europeans as permanent
> residents! Then the fighting will magically stop because they're so civilized!
> </sarcasm>

Agreed that perfecting the right mix of foodstuffs in the right packaging
would be inefficient, besides it is a nitpick. Appended is a report on
dropping rice to the Lao proxy forces:

TO: Mr. William R. Leonard, ASB 16 October 1972

FROM: MacAlan Thompson, ORA/Logistics

SUBJ: Rice Dropping [Secret War in Laos]

The USAID/Laos, Office of Refugee Affairs, has been in the rice dropping
business for about 10 years. At present we are delivering approximately
2500 MT (5.5 million pounds) of foodstuffs per month by freefall
drops; this includes rice, canned meat, salt, and PL-480
commodities. Some of the various problems, solutions, and alternatives we
have met are as follows:


         1. That 40 kg of rice packed inside three each 100 kg capacity
jute sacks will survive a free-fall drop with minimal loss and breakage.

         2. That this 40 kg triple-sacked unit MUST impact perpendicular
to the ground, i.e., drop vertical for a horizontal DZ or at an angle of
about 45 deg for a DZ sloped at 45 deg.


The process is composed of three basic steps, i.e., 1) rebagging of rice,
2) rigging/palletizing for drop, and 3) dropping. Each step, with some
alternatives, will be discussed in turn.

         1. Rebagging: Rice is normally delivered to the warehouse in 100
kg net weight jute bags. As our requirement is for 40 kg rice, we have a
"services" contract for rebagging the 100 kg single-bag rice into 40 kg
triple-bag drop units.

              We have two basic prices in this contract, 1) about $24/MT if
the contractor furnishes the bagging materials (sacks and string), and
2) about $1.50 if the contractor furnishes labor only and the government
furnishes the bagging materials. We normally use the $24/MT rate and the
contractor has the responsibility, and the attendant problems of buying,
shipping, warehousing, and maintaining the materials pipeline for about 1.3
million jute bags each year.

             We use empty reclaimed jute sacks, 29" x 43", of 100 kg
capacity and jute twine for sewing. The cost of the reclaimed jute sack
varies from $0.20 - $0.35 each and is presently toward the high end of the
range because of the international jute shortage caused by the January '72
Bangladesh war. The twine runs $0.50 - $0.60 per kg; jute bags are
usually readily available in SEA as most of the local agricultural products
are transported in jute. Certainly if a rice rebagging/drop program is to
be set up on short notice, jute bags will probably be the only material on

             Starting January '73, we plan to rebag utilizing two
polypropylene bags and one jute bag rather than three jute bags. Still
triple sacked but the cost of Singapore poly bags is only about $0.24 each
thereby lowering the cost of the triple-sacked unit from $0.90 to about
$0.75, or an annual savings of about $100,000 on the AID/Laos drop volume
of 20,000 MT. If this alternative was implemented utilizing U.S. origin
poly bags the annual cost would increase by about $150,000.

             Here are a few figures for reference:

                 1 MT rice in 100 kg sacks = 10 sacks
                 1 MT rice for drop (40 kg sacks) = 25 units
                 1 MT of 40 kg triple-sacked drop units = 75 jute sacks (25
                    units x 3 sacks /unit)

Therefore, when bagging 1 MT of 40 kg triple-sacked rice you need a total
of 75 jute sacks of 100 kg capacity, 10 of which contain the 1 MT of rice
delivered and 65 of which must be bought empty.

             So, into the act of bagging. This sample is based on a 100 MT
per day volume as used in Vientiane, Laos. Requirements are 100 MT of rice
delivered/packed in 1000 jute bags, approximately 50 kg of jute twine for
sewing, and 6,500 reclaimed empty 100 kg capacity jute bags, and about
50-75 laborers. The 100 kg rice is dumped onto the warehouse floor and is
then shoveled into the empty bags in approximately 40 kg lots. This 40 kg
bag, as yet unsewn and single bagged, is placed on a balance type platform
scale and a small quantity of rice is either added from the pile or removed
from the bag to bring the weight to 40 kg. This single bag is then hand
sewn. The single sewn bag is then upended into a second bag, which is then
sewn, being careful not to tie into the inner bag, and this double bagged
unit is again upended into the third and last bag for final sewing. This
completes the 40 kg net weight triple-bagged drop sack; three jute sacks
sewn separately with the middle bag "inverted" so that its hand-sewn seam
is opposite the hand-sewn seams of the first and third bags.

             To maintain this volume of 100 MT per day we run two
production lines utilizing only hand labor. Each like is composed of 1)
laborers unloading and emptying the incoming 100 kg rice onto the
pile; 2) three laborers shoveling and weighing the 40 kg rice into the
first bag; 3) the firs of three sewing crews (as each bag is sewn it is
passed onto the next crew who add a bag and sew); 4) the stacking/loading

             AID/Laos also bags rice, using the same basic system and
materials, at two out-stations, Luang Prabang (L-54) and Ban Houei Sai
(L-25). The volume at these stations rarely reaches 10 MT per day and can
be performed by as few as 10 laborers.

             Attachment "1" is a sample copy of a jute bag contract and
Attachment "2" is a copy of the alternative polypropylene bag contract as
available from HYTEX (PTE) LTD, Singapore. Attachment "3" is our current
rebagging contract (K 605 per $1.00).

             Commodities other than rice can also be airdropped by using
this rebagging system. For example, AID/Laos is dropping such rebagged
items as PL-480 cornmeal, bulgur wheat, and noodles. We also drop what we
call "hash," which is composed of 32 kg rice and 12 each 1-lb cans of
meat. Cans suitable for dropping are available in Bangkok and can surely
be manufactured elsewhere.

         2. Rigging: The second basic phase of rice dropping is
palletizing and rigging the 40 kg triple-bagged rice for air drop.

              Although rice may beloaded loose (i.e., not palletized) on
the floor of an aircraft and then stacked 7-9 bags high in the door for
drop, this system is not normally used by AID/Laos, mainly because of
safety. There is little emergency jettison capability loading in this manner.

             The system used here with the C-46, C-7A, and C-123 utilizes a
flat wood pallet with two guide rollers and double tracks in the
aircraft. The pallet is either plywood or laminated masonite and can be
either disposable or not depending on the track system used in the aircraft.

             Our earlier model of disposable pallet would probably be most
suitable for use in a C-47, depending on the availability of either plywood
or masonite. It is a 15 mm thick (about 1/5 inch) and measures 29" x
34". The corners are cut to prevent snagging and holes are drilled to
provide tiedowns for the drop rice. (See Attachments 4, 5, 6, and
7). This pallet holds 9 sacks of 40 kg rice.

             Six bags of rice are first placed on the pallet, and about an
18 ft length of rope is laid across the top. Three additional bags are
added and are bundled together with a single turn of the rope. The long
ends of the rope are then secured to the two side holes of the pallet and
tightened. The purpose of tying these three top bags separately and
securing them to the pallet is to prevent the pallet from striking the left
horizontal stabilizer on the C-46 when the load hits the propblast. To
secure the palletized load during ground handling and while in the aircraft
before drop, two lengths of rope are tied diagonally across the rice to the
four corner holes in the pallet. One only of these ropes is cut before

             In a C-46, this 29" x 34" pallet with guide rollers is used
with two sets of double-tracks joined forward of the door by a Y-section
which runs into a curved track to the door. The last straight track
section extends about 8" outside the aircraft. Seven pallets are loaded on
one track and six on the other. Because of cabin width restrictions, a
C-47 would probably be restricted to a single double-track and a curved
section and would be restricted by ACL to 4.5 to 5 pallets. One loaded
pallet weighs about 950 lbs.

             The reusable pallet is basically identical except for
size. It uses 3/4" plywood, 32" x 48", and holds 18 bags of 40 kg drop
rice in two stacks of 9 bags. The main difference is inthe tracks on the
C-46. The last straight section of double-track that extends outside the
aircraft for use with the disposable pallets is modified to a tilt
section. At the moment of drop, when the loaded pallet is pushed past the
balance point of the tilt section, the pallet guide rollers engage flanges
that are inserted in the tilt-track guide slot. The loaded pallet tips
outside the aircraft, the rice drops off, the empty pallet tilts back
inside, is slid out of the holding flanges, and the tilt track section is
ready for another pallet for the next pass. A sample of this tilt section
can be made available to interested parties.

             Securing the drop rice to the recoverable pallet is simplified
as there is no pallet leaving the plane to strike the stabilizer. One turn
of 3/8" manila rope is tied around all 18 bags to prevent "floating" bags
in the first 1-2 seconds after drop. Two ropes are tied diagonally across
the load to the four corner holes of the pallet. These ropes secure the
load during handling and MUST be cut before drop. An alternative, which
cuts down on rope usage, is to use a small rope loop at either end of the
pallet and type XIII webbing with two hooks made from 1/4" rebar and a
quick fit adapter (AN 6517, MS 2204, 48A7058).

NOTE: The rollers used with this reusable pallet are threaded for a nut
rather than welded as is the case with the disposable pallet. After
200-300 drops, when the track side of the pallet gets marked and grooved by
the tracks, the pallet is turned over, the rollers changed and the pallet
is good for another 300 drops. See Attachments 8 and 9 for drawings of
this pallet and roller.

Another Note: None of the plywood used is of U.S. origin. U.S. plywood
was dried and found to be too soft. Bangkok origin, and most commercial
plywood in SEA, is made from comparatively hard wood and is not grooved
heavily by the tracks.

         3. Dropping: The most important consideration in rice dropping
is the principle (Law) that the triple-sacked rice bag MUS impact the
ground at an angle of 90 deg. Any forward motion remaining from the
aircraft drop speed when the bag impacts will cause the bag to slide across
the ground and rip. This loss is quite evident when observing actual drops
as the rice is spread out in a fan from the ripped bag in the direction of
drop. In a "normal" broken bag from a 90 deg impact, the rice will be
spilled radially 360 deg. This only solution to "fan" breakage is to
decrease aircraft drop speed or increase drop altitude.

             For the C-46, C-7A, and C-123 the drop speed is 100-11- knots
at 900-1,000 ft drop altitude on a horizontal DZ. The drop altitude is
correspondingly lower for sloped DZs as, even tho the drop bag will still
have some forward speed remaining upon impact, the bag will impact
perpendicular to the ground slope.

             The simplest drop system does not use tracks or pallets. The
drop rice is loaded loose in the aircraft and brought to the door(s) in 7-9
bag lots. The first bag is laid in the door perpendicular to the axis of
the aircraft and extends about 12" outside the aircraft. The next 6-8 bags
are stacked on top of the first bag but parallel to the axis. At the
buzzer, the 2-4 kickers tilt the bags out using the available "ears" of the
first drop bag. The main disadvantage of this system is the lace of a
quick jettison capability in case of an emergency. A modification to this
system is to use tracks and pallets except at the door for dropping. If
plywood or laminated masonite pallets are at a premium, this mod offers a
degree of safety while saving materials.

             When using the disposable 29" x 34" pallet with a C-46, two
pallets are dropped per pass. The first pallet is pushed flush with the
door and the second pallet is butted against the first. Three or four
kickers are used,the first pair pushing the pallet in the door and the
second pair of kickers handles the second pallet. At the drop buzzer, all
kickers push and the pilot assists by tilting the aircraft to the
left. Only ONE of the tie ropes is to be cut. The other tie rope helps
prevent "floaters." The drop rice works loose from the second rope before
impact (usually). As a C-46 normally carries 13 pallets, this system
takes 7 passes to complete the load.

             The free fall rice drop system currently in use by AID/Laos
utilizes the recoverable plywood pallet and a C-46 with the "tilt-track"
mod at the door. Three kickers handle one pallet at a time (18 bags/pallet
at 90 lbs/bag). The pallet to be dropped is positioned just short of the
balance point of the tilt-track section and, at the buzzer, is pushed
forward. Seven passes are required per planeload.


1- Jute sack contract
2- Polypropylene bag contract
3- Rebagging contract
4- Disposable plywood pallet contract
5- Laminated masonite pallet contract
6- Plywood pallet contract
7- Drawing of disposable pallet w/welded roller
8- Drawing of reusable plywood pallet
9- Drawing of reusable threaded guide roller
10- Possible materials suppliers

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA) < >
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