Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts

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Rotorcraft Play Important Role in 'Superstorm' Sandy Relief Effort

November 29, 2012

New York-area helicopter operators came to the rescue in the aftermath of "Superstorm" Sandy, delivering more than 12 tons of urgently needed supplies to one the areas hit hardest by the storm.

Nine helicopters flew a total of 20 sorties last month from a base of operations at New Jersey's Linden Airport (LDJ) to Staten Island (NY) University Hospital, delivering 25,000 pounds of supplies to the care facility. The airlift was organized by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC), as part of its Helicopter Emergency Response Program.

The missions were flown by 40 volunteer pilots, with hospital staff – many of them working even as their own homes had been damaged or destroyed by floodwaters – receiving the supplies. They were further assisted by volunteers from the New York Police Department, who met the helicopters and loaded trucks to take supplies directly to residents suffering in the aftermath of storm.

"It was amazing," said ERHC Chairman Jeffrey Smith. "This was red, white and blue heroship."

Helicopters used for the mission included a Bell 430, AgustaWestland A109 and A139, and a Sikorsky S-76. These turbine-powered aircraft were an important factor in the mission, Smith noted, as Jet-A remained comparatively abundant, even as other fuel sources were rationed in the days following Sandy's Oct. 29 landfall.

The relief mission received additional support from American Eurocopter, which donated $10,000 to the ERHC to purchase supplies, including bottled water, diapers, formula, food and clothing, and flashlights and batteries.

NBAA Northeast Region Representative Dean Saucier said the airlift demonstrated the importance of rotorcraft to the area. "Helicopter operations have received a bad rap in the Northeast," he said. "I think Sandy victims were grateful to hear – not the perceived noise – but the sound of helicopters bringing food, clothing, medical supplies and medical evacuation capabilities to them."

Smith noted that while the floodwaters may have receded, the relief effort continues. "We are now working with local people in the Rockaways to deliver additional supplies, and also help people return to their homes," he added.

"We fly here, we live here, we work here," Smith concluded. "We're able to send supplies and volunteers directly to areas that need help the most."