Pilots in Tehachapi used general aviation planes to help people stranded by Thursday’s mudslides get back home.
Ken Hetge, the owner of Recover Your Cub, a maintenance and rental aircraft facility in Tehachapi, said after seeing the storm he decided to gather local pilots to help on Friday morning.
“We decided to come out to the airport, put a call into the local pilots who we thought were available to fly, and we put these guys into action,” said Hetge.
He said about 10 local pilots made flights between Tehachapi and Mojave.
He said they flew about 65 to 70 people who were stranded, including some pets.
“A couple of our flights did have some animals and dogs in the back seat,” he said.
He said the pilots who volunteered, free of charge, made the effort possible.
“Those are the guys that are the true heroes. They were the ones that were in the airplanes. They were flying back and forth getting the people from point A to point B,” Hetge said.
Andrew Angellotti was one of the pilots who helped pick people up, including three women stuck in the mudslide.
“This weekend has been some of the most meaningful flying I have done in my entire life. I have been flying airplanes for 11 years, and it’s amazing to help people,” Angellotti said.
Joey Schoolcraft was another pilot.
“It’s just good to get the people home,” Schoolcraft said.
Hetge said having general aviation planes in a community like Tehachapi is extremely important especially when disaster strikes.
“We’re up in the mountains. We have clean air, a great community to live in…however if something happens like a natural disaster, a mud slide, a snowstorm…we become isolated. We’re now an island in Eastern Kern County,” he said.
He said it is these small planes that can make a difference, and the community took note.
“They couldn’t believe that our little airport here in Tehachapi, along with the guys that they see flying around town all the time, were really going to make a difference and help the community by bringing people back home,” Hetge said.
He said they are already planning for future storms and how they can help in the most effective way.