Unheralded Business Aviation Effort Lifts Haiti

by Joe Del Balzo on August 27, 2013

ARTICLE: Relief missions to Haiti continue

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Almost 4 years ago, a natural disaster wreaked havoc on the poor country of Haiti. Humanitarian aviation relief was launched there as it has been in other impacted areas. Within a week back in 2010, 100 or so business aircraft flew missions to the devastated island carrying all manner of first aid materials, food and clothing.

Richard McGlaughlin, a gastroenterologist from Birmingham, AL is knowledgeable about the horrendous conditions there because he helped build St. Luke’s Hospital as well as continuing to volunteer his medical skills at that facility. He made a presentation for the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) about the on-going problems. Luke Lysen, owner of The Flight Academy in Seattle, Wash., was in the audience and was moved by Haiti’s needs. Lysen took McGlaughlin’s pleas and turned it into a brochure that was sent to the COPA members.

The results were heartening:

“The response was amazing. Donors and volunteers gave $105,000, and one guy arranged a big discount for buying medical supplies. The people in the community were incredibly generous with their time, money and aircraft.”

McGlaughlin said using business aircraft to deliver expensive medical equipment and supplies is much easier and less taxing than if they were shipped.

“With the donor standing right there explaining what it is and its critical importance, Haitian customs officers are much more likely to understand than if it was just a big, unannounced package” said McGlaughlin.

The result was an airlift reminiscent of the Berlin Airlift, although lesser in magnitude and shorter in duration, equal in the pilots’ sense of satisfaction.

These needs are likely to reoccur in Haiti and the next natural disaster will again call on aviation to volunteer to aid. National Business Aviation Association has established a systemic resource to respond - NBAA Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (HERO) Database. The site collects the needs, provides a place where pilots/aircraft may volunteer, coordinates among the private aviation community and the relevant governmental bodies.

Dr. McGlaughlin and Mr. Lysen, thanks for continuing to help Haiti in this prolonged recovery!

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