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COVER STORYMission to Haiti: Business Aviation Lends a Helping Hand
It’s a well-known fact that business aviation is a transportation mode uniquely suited for providing a first response to natural disasters. When other means are unavailable for transporting food, supplies, medical specialists and other assistance into devastated or remote areas, business aircraft can provide the support for such missions.
So it was in the days following the January 12 earthquake that struck the island nation of Haiti. Quickly, it became clear that business aviation could help solve the transportation challenges confronting federal government agencies and nongovernmental relief organizations.
NBAA Members, recognizing the severity of the Haiti crisis, responded generously with an outpouring of offers for support. When the call for assistance went out, “The business aviation community was ready, willing and able to help,” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said.
Online Resources Help Coordinate Relief Efforts
To assist NBAA Members and others across general aviation wanting to help, the Association developed an online registry for aircraft, other assets and volunteers available to assist in relief efforts.
Nearly 400 aircraft, representing the diversity of the general aviation fleet, were included in the registry, and the mercy flights conducted were flown by piston singles and twins, turboprops, helicopters and jets.
NBAA continues to share the registry information with the Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Incident Management Group, the agency that is coordinating the U.S. government response to the crisis. The registry is also shared with non-governmental organizations coordinating Haiti relief efforts.
The registry is part of a special section of NBAA’s web site at www.nbaa.org/haiti that serves as the information clearinghouse for the latest information about ongoing relief missions into Haiti, what NBAA Members are doing to help, and reports from pilots and other business aviation volunteers who have completed missions to the earthquake-ravaged country.
Creating an ‘Air Bridge’
Among those making extensive use of the database was the all-volunteer group CARE (Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies), which was formed with NBAA’s support in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Through the efforts of CARE volunteers, business aviation created an “air bridge” of relief flights to Haiti, with missions originating from across the U.S., landing first at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE) for staging and picking up donated supplies and responder teams, then flying into the Dominican Republic, or smaller airfields in Haiti, such as at Cap-Haïtien.
CARE’s Marianne Stevenson said: “The instant credibility that NBAA provided [for CARE’s efforts] was crucial to all the success general aviation has achieved.”
To illustrate the breadth of assistance provided by the industry, CARE estimated its volunteers activated 75 business aviation aircraft out of more than 300 offered in just the first two weeks after the disaster.
The flights coordinated through CARE’s network have transported thousands of pounds of donated materials worth millions of dollars, including medical supplies and equipment, lifesaving medicines and life-sustaining supplies for children and families, such as food, water and equipment for communications, power and lighting.
The stories of many of these flights, chronicled by NBAA on the Association’s special Haiti relief web site, and by news media outlets across the country, “illustrate the courage, generosity and selflessness of the men and women of the business aviation community,” Bolen said.
Reporting from the front lines of the coordinated effort, Mike O’Keefe of Banyan Aviation, one of the anchor fixed base operations at FXE, said: ”What business aviation has done is a tremendous gift to the Haitian people.”
The Media Covers Business Aviation’s Haiti Efforts
“The news images of tragic destruction in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti reveal heroic people from around the world providing help... When it comes to supporting efforts to provide relief to Haiti’s earthquake victims, Texas companies that use general aviation aircraft are among the many whose employees are answering the call.”
Ed Bolen, NBAA President and CEO
“Dillon’s Stores is among the local businesses, including Cessna Aircraft Co. and Bombardier Learjet, responding to the NBAA call to help with Haiti relief efforts.”
Wichita Business Journal
“Believe it or not – [thanks to] a lot of private pilots from Texas, California…we’re really looking up around here.”
Mark Stuart, founder of the Hands and Feet Project
“In response to an e-mail plea sent out by the National Business Aviation Association, a local businessman donated his Pilatus PC-12 to deliver equipment to provide 100,000 gallons of clean water a day and a satellite imaging system that will allow local doctors to treat earthquake victims from afar.”
Huntsville [AL] Times
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