Ridgefield Pilot Flies Relief Missions to Haiti
February 19, 2010
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  • Written by Kate Czaplinski

    Ridgefielder Tom Lincoln’s small plane made a big difference for people in remote areas of Haiti last month.

    The General Electric portfolio manager – a pilot and plane owner – spent about four days in the skies, traveling 6,000 miles with medical supplies and transporting a surgeon into the earthquake-devastated areas of the country.

    He flew his Beechcraft Baron six-seat light twin – removing two seats for doctors and cargo to fit.

    The 13-year Ridgefielder admits the trip was a lot of work, with 20-hour days that included flying down the East Coast to a staging area in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., back and forth to Haiti, including stops to Turks & Caicos for fuel.

    “It was certainly a great adventure,” Mr. Lincoln said. “In this case you knew you were doing something that was really helping out.”

    Port-au-Prince’s airports were over-capacity with much larger planes so Mr. Lincoln and his co-pilot, Dan Lourenco, were able to use small landing strips and fields in areas like Jacmel.

    “There’s tons of cargo going into Port-au-Prince and they are severely capacity constrained – they have to turn planes away,” Mr. Lincoln said. “There are a lot of supplies but getting them dispersed through country with the damaged infrastructure is difficult – doctors can’t get what they need.”

    Small planes can make a difference in getting those supplies to surrounding areas beyond the capital.

    “We didn’t want to land at the big airport and take away runway capacity for a much larger plane,” Mr. Lincoln said. “We landed in smaller, remote fields in Haiti – that’s kind where a plane like mine can really shine.”

    Several organizations came together to transport doctors and medical supplies, including Angel Flight – a group Mr. Lincoln has volunteered with in the past. The hub of the operations was in Fort Lauderdale. They also coordinated with Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies (CARE). The doctors being transported were with a group called Team Ange.

    Mr. Lincoln brought in about 1,500 pounds of medical supplies and brought people back into the country, including a missionary worker and a Haitian U.S. resident trying to get back home, Mr. Lincoln said.

    He left Danbury on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and headed to Florida, stopping along the way in Pennsylvania to pick up an orthopedic surgeon, part of a network of doctors working in Haiti now. On the second day they flew back and forth to Haiti twice. They flew into the country again the next day.

    “We did not stay in country long or roam around,” Mr. Lincoln said. “We were advised against it from a security standpoint.”

    The effort was supported by co-workers and friends.

    “I have to share credit with colleagues and friends here at GE,” Mr. Lincoln said. “They helped back me financially. Over 6,000 miles – that’s a lot of fuel burned.”

    Mr. Lincoln has no formal plans to return though he was considering going back to pick up the surgeon he flew down.

    A few friends have joined in the effort and flown to Haiti.

    “We were able to train them on what we learned,” Mr. Lincoln said.

    Work and family responsibilities will keep him grounded for now.

    “It’s been contagious – I passed the information on to other pilots,” Mr. Lincoln said last week. “I have two friends on their way – they should be landing right now.”

    Date: 2010-02-15