GA Leaps in to Aid Haitian Relief Effort

AOPA President Craig Fuller summarized the thoughts of many aircraft operators in response to the devastation in Haiti: "We all want to jump in our aircraft and fly down to help." Indeed, in the days following the Jan. 12 earthquake, operators of aircraft ranging from individual owners of single-engine pistons to corporate fleet and charter operators rose to the challenge. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was briefed on what equipment and services were available — and they are substantial. The effort was funneled through DHS's Critical Incident Management Group (CIMG) and within hours of establishing a registry for volunteers, more than 70 companies had signed up. The National Business Aviation Association has also established a separate registry for individuals — pilots, mechanics, medical personnel and others. Information on the registry and other elements of the relief effort is available online at nbaa.org/haiti. Established mercy organizations such as Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies (CARE) and Angel Flights have also mobilized, if not for direct flights to Haiti, then in support of efforts to collect and stage supplies for ultimate delivery to the victims. For example, Showalter Aviation at Orlando Executive Airport is reprising its role as a staging location for aid flights — a role it fulfilled during the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. With limited infrastructure and the devastation at the main airport in Port au Prince, GA associations are advising members that their financial help is probably the most critically needed for now. Fuller told AOPA members in a letter that, though flying down to Haiti to help in person is the first reaction, "…government officials and disaster experts say that's not the best way to help right now."