If Charley Valera told you the organization he works for “can move anything from anywhere to anywhere,” you’d assume he worked for FedEx or UPS, but you wouldn’t even be close. Valera handles public relations for AERObridge, a US-based logistics group that provides air support using donated, mostly GA aircraft and crew to deliver supplies anywhere in the US during times of disaster. They’ll also work with 1,000 nm of the US.
During Hurricane Dorian in 2019, AERObridge was right there transporting tons of needed supplies to the Bahamas. Following Hurricane Sandy in the northeast US in 2012, AERObridge’s teams of volunteer pilots and ground crew in the Phoenix area managed to scramble a pair of Cessna Citation Xs and pack them with supplies to carry back east. The AERObridge network also seems to draw quite a few single-engine turboprop aircraft, such as the Pilatus PC-12. AERObridge coordinated the call for supplies like food, warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, batteries and flashlights, and bottled water and generator oil, as well as setting up the staging areas at local FBOs to collect the supplies as they came in.
When asked about the coronavirus, Valera said, “We didn’t see this one coming. With a hurricane, you have notice at least. We know when we’re going in.” AERObridge’s 10 national coordinators went to work as soon as they realized the need a few weeks ago, organizing flights with the supplies you’d imagine during a crisis and a few new ones, such as nearly 2,400 pounds of hand sanitizer and tens of thousands of face masks. Valera said communities in need of supplies have been contacting AERObridge directly with their requests.
AERObridge has coordinated dozens of missions recently from a Ft. Smith, Arkansas, staging location to sites in Wichita, Kansas; Shreveport, Lousiana; and San Angelo, Texas, delivering needed supplies in the fight against COVID-19. One mission picked up 14,000 N95 face masks at Dallas’ Addison airport and delivered them to San Antonio. Valera said the group’s pilots flew to 10 states in the first week and credits the FBOs at the airports they use for much of the group’s success.
The AERObridge network includes more than 2,000 volunteer pilots, as well as hundreds of ground crew members to handle the loading and unloading of the aircraft, not to mention a contact list of resources in both business and general aviation such as NBAA, EAA, AOPA, the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association, the Angel Flight network, Universal Aviation and Weather, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others. The pilots who volunteer their aircraft cover the entire cost of each mission. Pilot and ground crew volunteers can register to help at AERObridge.