All Levels of Aviation
Rescue & Recovery
Harvey & Irma
Supporting Those Affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey
Friday, September 08, 2017, 4:00 PM
American Airlines has partnered with the Red Cross for many years and is part of a select group of leading corporations that provide the highest level of support to American Red Cross preparedness and relief efforts.
AOPA put out a call to the Frederick, Maryland, community where it is headquartered, and then opened the doors of the National Aviation Community Center for donations on Sept. 9 and 10. Donors were asked to provide items from a specific list of useful relief materials, and staff and local residents volunteered their time over the weekend to receive and organize contributions.
Now, Delta Airlines has organized a pet rescue mission that allows Floridians leave the state along with their pet, just in time for Hurricane Irma’s hit.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma’s destructive path through the Caribbean, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is supporting storm recovery efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands with a fully-staffed mobile air traffic control tower at Cyril E. King International Airport in St. Thomas. The tower was fully operational at 9:40 a.m. this morning and is now supporting relief flights by the U.S. military, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, general aviation and limited commercial flights.
The existing air traffic control tower at the airport was badly damaged by the storm, and controllers were managing air traffic from a tent on the airfield for several days before the mobile tower arrived this morning. The FAA is shuttling controllers back and forth from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas every day to staff the facility.
A U.S. Air Force C17 airlifted the tower from Boise, Idaho, to St. Thomas, along with a custom-made trailer and a truck to unload it. The tower is equipped with an engine generator, an air conditioner, four radios for the air traffic controllers and instruments to measure barometric pressure, as well as wind speed and direction. The tower arrived in St. Thomas at 6:15 a.m. and was fully operational in three hours and 25 minutes.
Within hours after Hurricane Harvey came ashore near Rockport, Texas on Friday, August 25, the phone rang at CHI Aviation in Howell, Mich. Air Methods, the nation’s largest air ambulance provider, wanted to enlist one of CHI’s Sikorsky S-61Ns to move personnel, patients and medical supplies between Houston-area hospitals being deluged with up to 50 inches of rain.
“Once we got the call to go down there it was all hands on deck in the hangar to get the aircraft configured and loaded with spare parts and tools,” said Stu Edwards, CHI project manager. A support truck and trailer, driven by a company mechanic, began the trek to Texas. Another mechanic and the flight crew finished configuring the aircraft with sound-dampening blankets and 19 folding Martin-Baker passenger seats. The trio, led by PIC Mike Jones, launched at 6 a.m. Monday, August 28, for the 7.9-hour, two-stop flight to the staging base in New Braunfels, Texas. Edwards deployed separately from his home in Oklahoma.
National Guard units from across the country contributed 69 helicopters at the mission’s peak: 35 Sikorsky UH-60s and two HH-60s, 18 Boeing CH-47 tandem-rotor Chinook heavy-lifters and 14 Airbus Lakota UH-72s. Active military units under the direction of Northcom contributed another 73 helicopters—mainly UH-60s but also specialized machines such as giant three-engine Navy MH-53Es that can carry up to 55 passengers. U.S.Customs and Border Protection contributed a dozen helicopters as well, some from its Air and Marine Operations unit. The rapid response of these units saved thousands of lives. The Coast Guard alone was credited with 10,000 saves in Harvey’s aftermath, many of them from helicopters.
OEMs also stepped up in Harvey’s aftermath. Bell Helicopter, based in Fort Worth, Texas, sent two 429 light twins and a 412 medium twin to assist in the recovery efforts, and in the days immediately after the storm, Bell and sister Textron companies raised $120,000 for Harvey relief. The helicopters delivered critical food, water and supplies. The 412 flew six sorties for a total of 11.4 hours delivering 7,300 pounds, while the 429s flew seven sorties for a total of 11.7 hours delivering 6,000 pounds.
“Our pilots were able to get to those who couldn’t be reached by vehicles or boats and were in desperate need of relief,” said Todd Bufkin of the Bell Helicopter Training Academy. Bufkin also noted, “Our employees are doing a great deal in Fort Worth, Amarillo and Lafayette to donate supplies and give to the Red Cross and we will continue to stand ready to support the Houston community.”
The above link provides more details of these efforts plus other aviation intervention.
Airport (HOU) became a virtual island. But the FBO also quickly became a center for relief efforts, as Coast Guard, Army and National Guard helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft started arriving at the FBO, bringing in supporting personnel to man local relief centers, as well as teams that rescued flood victims.
The Go Team at Million Air proved instrumental by supporting those providing rescue and relief services.
“We were able to take care of these crews in an Indianapolis 500 way,” said Roger Woolsey, CEO of Million Air Houston. “We got them fuel, warm food in their belly and they jumped back in the fight.” He said it was especially gratifying when the rescuers told him that they were reenergized because of Million Air’s support.
“Every one of the search-and-rescue crew were true heroes,” said Woolsey. “From the pilots, and mechanics to the swimmers, we were in awe of their dedication and strength. The helicopters would be fueled, as the crew would debrief their next mission, and eat a fast, on-the-run meal. The swimmers would even rush in and take quick showers after being soaked in the flood waters – all in record time so these dedicated rescuers could reenergize for more lifesaving missions. Often the crew would not even have time to eat a quick hot meal. As they’d run back out, we’d hand them Pop-Tarts and hot dogs.”
[just an excerpt from a longer story]
Southwest Airlines flew dozens of orphaned dogs and cats from Houston to San Diego as part of a disaster relief effort for families displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The storm caused widespread flooding, at least 70 deaths in southeastern Texas, and forced thousands of people—and their pets—to flee their homes.
The Southwest Airlines flight for rescue animals was filled with 64 puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats, plus staff to care (and even cuddle) the animals during their journey. The airline flew the animals from Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Houston to San Diego on Sept. 5.
The airline partnered with the San Diego-based Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC), which will care for the animals until they’re adopted. Four medical personnel from HWAC flew to Texas last week to help the organization and provide medical care for shelter animals.
United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart said there are nearly 10,000 United employees who live in the Houston area. The airline is telling them that, if they cannot make it to Bush International Airport, they should not risk it and should stay home.
Hobart said there are about 200 customers stuck, for now, at the airport.
“We’re bringing in additional relief flights. They’re going to have supplies and humanitarian aid that are going to work at the airport and elsewhere, but eventually we’re going to work, maybe as early as today, to get those folks out of Houston and back up here to Chicago and then work on re-booking them from there,” he said.
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