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Industry Donors and Volunteers Honored for Haiti Relief Efforts
Atlanta, GA, October 20, 2010
For the first time in NBAA Convention history, the Association held a General Session on the show's second day, paying special recognition to the efforts of everyone in the industry who responded to the humanitarian crisis that struck Haiti when the island country was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January of this year.
The hundreds in the business aviation community who contributed to the relief effort were honored with NBAA's Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership. Created in 2006, the award has been presented in the past to Cessna Aircraft Company, Veterans Airlift Command, Corporate Angel Network and the Civil Air Patrol.
Paying Tribute to Humanitarians
"This year we realized that it was not one group that needed to be recognized with the award, but the entire business aviation community that responded to the earthquake in Haiti," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. After the earthquake hit, the business aviation community immediately helped coordinate relief efforts, mobilizing business airplanes of every size and type to carry supplies and humanitarian volunteers to Haiti.
"Within 30 days of the earthquake, our people took more than three times the supplies to Haiti as the Red Cross," said Bolen, "and 10 percent as much supplies as the U.S. military."
To pay tribute to the pilots, aircraft owners, FBO staff, scheduler/dispatchers, airport officials and many others who responded to the Haiti crisis, Bolen introduced a video told through the first-hand perspectives of people directly involved in the effort. The video highlighted only a few of the many donors and volunteers, including Tradewind Aviation, which relocated two Cessna Caravans to the Dominican Republic in order to fly multiple relief missions to Haiti each day, landing on semi-paved roads in the town of Leogane.
"The destruction in Leogane was so much greater," said Tradewind chief pilot Adam Schaefer on the video. "These were people who, until we brought tarps in, had nothing to sleep under, until we brought food in, had nothing to eat."
Tradewind's relief flights are only one example of how business airplanes were essential to reaching communities far from the international airport in Port-au-Prince. The earthquake destroyed many of the country's roads, and few of the outlying airports had runways longer than 3,500 feet – not long enough for military and commercial aircraft to land.
Also featured in the video was C.A.R.E. (Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies), the volunteer network that matched humanitarian groups needing transport to Haiti with volunteer aircraft, and Banyan Air Service, the FBO at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE) that became the staging ground for dozens of relief teams and thousands of pounds of supplies bound for Haiti.
"We became a depot center," said Sueanne Campion, C.A.R.E. coordinator for Banyan, on the video. "Our job was to make sure no aircraft left South Florida empty."
Bolen noted at the conclusion of the video that the remarkable story of business aviation's response in Haiti was not just a community story. "After hearing this story," Bolen said, "Republicans and Democrats, the House and the Senate, joined together and passed a joint resolution recognizing business aviation for its response to Haiti."
Not only were members of Congress moved by the business aviation community's response, but NBAA's leadership and staff were as well, said Bolen.
"When Hurricane Katrina hit, NBAA created a volunteer registry, which was kicked into gear in Haiti and used effectively by many groups," said Bolen. "That name didn't quite reflect the caliber of the people who volunteered, so today we are announcing we will change the name to our Humanitarian Emergency Response Operators (HERO) database. NBAA is creating a HERO list, because all of you, who gave so much, have inspired us."