BizAv Relief Flights to Flow Into Haiti
January 28, 2010
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  • By Kerry Lynch

    The business aviation community has begun to spool up a coordinated relief missions effort into earthquake-ravaged Haiti, with hundreds of business and general operations having already flown into the little island nation. Working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Incident Management Group, which is managing the government’s crisis response, the National Business Aviation Association and the Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies (CARE) organization have coordinated numerous missions involving the transport of medical teams and supplies, water, food and other necessities into Haiti and the transfer of people out of the country (BA, Jan. 18/23).

    NBAA had established a registry for aircraft that could be used for relief missions, and by late last week the number had swelled to 280, including a mix of helicopters, single- and multi-engine pistons, single- and multi-engine turboprops, and jets. In addition, more than 230 private and commercial pilots have lined up on the NBAA volunteer registry to offer their services.

    CARE President Marianne Stevenson, who estimated that her organization has been on pace to launch a flight into Haiti every 30 minutes, noted an “amazing amount of support and cooperation.” In an update to NBAA members, Stevenson noted that the community has been able to bring critical personnel into key regions of Haiti. “CARE was the first to establish a chain of supplies and medical personnel into Jacmel and then use caravans and helicopters to bring supplies into Leogane,” she said. Without the help of the community, “it is probable this area would be in dire crisis,” she said.

    CARE has initially targeted outlying areas such as Cape Haitian, Jacmel and Leogane in part because of the ease of access to those outlying regions. Flights into Port-Au-Prince have been tightly controlled under a Notice To Airmen that FAA put in place last week to manage flights into the airport. The NOTAM has helped with the flow of traffic into Port-Au-Prince, said Doug Carr, vice president of safety, security and regulation for NBAA. “The NOTAM brought some structure and capacity control that was needed,” he said. But the airport has limited ramp space, and large aircraft are still being given priority.

    “There is criticism of using slot times for low-yielding missions,” Stevenson told members, and said her organization has been working feverishly to obtain large-cabin aircraft for the requests that CARE has received for assistance. “The requests we are receiving are from every conceivable charity and organization to include the Salvation Army and even the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” she said, and noted that the organization had more than 100 medical and first response teams waiting to get into Port-Au-Prince.

    She also chronicled successes, as has Robin Eissler, a partner of JetQuest who works closely with CARE to dispatch flights for the relief effort. These included the carrying of orphans from Haiti to the U.S. In a separate update to NBAA members, Eissler noted the transport of an 11-year-old girl who had been struck by a bus while walking to a neighboring town to buy food for her family.

    A doctor flown in by CARE had found the girl, stabilized her while still in Haiti and coordinated with CARE to fly her to the U.S. for medical treatment. CARE had a slot for a Pilatus PC-12 at Port-Au-Prince, Eissler noted, but a guard at the airport initially denied the doctor entry, with the guard saying, “She’s going to die anyway.” But the doctor notified CARE, which helped him obtain access, and the PC-12 was able to transport the girl to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This girl would be in the last hours of life without the CARE network,” Eissler said.

    The mission flights have ranged from large and small organizations to individuals, businesses and large multinational corporations. Mission Aviation Fellowship established a Port-Au-Prince Airport communications center and dispatched a team in a Kodiak turboprop. Clean the World Foundation has flown more than 100 doctors and 10,000 pounds of medical supplies. Several major aviation manufacturers have offered their services and/or flown missions into Haiti. Dassault estimated that at least eight Falcon operators have flown into Haiti. “We all recognize the devastation to the area and the long-term need for assistance to the people of Haiti,” said Dassault Falcon President and CEO John Rosanvallon. Jeppesen is providing trip-planning services. Small operators have donated aircraft to deliver water and hygiene kits.

    Most of the CARE flights are flown out of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Several spots in Florida have served as collection hubs for relief aid. Carr stressed the need to ensure that the operations remain coordinated. “There’s been an overwhelming outpouring of people wanting to help,” he noted. But once operators arrive in Haiti, they are on their own. “You shouldn’t expect a lot of gas. You shouldn’t expect a lot of ground support.” Working through appropriate channels can help protect the operator and ensure the mission gets to the right place, he said.

    Date: 2010-01-25