General aviation woke up in a chilly winter morning in January 2010 to an unprecedented challenge -- the aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti. Like never before or ever since, GA spontaneously morphed into an international task force in response to the horrific disaster that befell the tiny poorest neighbor in our hemisphere. On short notice private pilots and aircraft operators from every GA community nationwide put the awful calamity at the top of their priority and scrambled to accomplish unprecedented feats of airborne philanthropy. This impromptu achievement that came to be known as the ‘2010 Haiti Airlift’, was an epic outpouring of GA kindheartedness on the global scale. Compelled by a call to duty, hundreds of airlift flyers simply did what’s right and blazed a new trail into the tropical apocalypse.
Rough estimates say probably a half-million miles were donated to fly 500 tons of relief aid to Haiti by GA aircraft in early 2010 though no official records were compiled. The life-saving response of general aviation heroes from then until today remains a collective heritage to be proud of, a marvelous example to be celebrated and exemplary deed to be emulated in every new mission arranged by Airlift Flyers Aviation Corp.
At Port-au-Prince International USAF controllers in a makeshift ATC “tower” handled over 150 humanitarian flights per day in and out of the single active. Runway 10/28 became the lifeline connecting the bleeding city to aid from the outside world. But relief cargo piled up inside the overcrowded airport perimeter, for just beyond the fence laid Armageddon with impenetrable streets buried under the rubble of the city’s ruins.
Unlike heavies streaming into MTPP, small GA planes were fulfilling tactical roles using open fields in the countryside beyond ground zero. Flights were strategically coordinated with long-established NGOs and faith-based charities already laboring in remote areas of Haiti. Each mission was uniquely important. Every flight was exceptionally audacious, each satisfied distinctive accomplishments, achieving miracles amidst the mayhem. A pilot’s recompense was learning a life was saved, a limb was spared, a fracture splinted, a wound was mended, an IV administered, a baby delivered, a soul was comforted – thanks in no small part to them.
If not for small planes medics and relief aid could not have reached outlying villages increasingly overwhelmed with hordes of stunned, displaced and injured refugees fleeing the capital city. Hundreds of sorties were flown into Haiti from Florida, PR and the DR, airlifting personnel and supplies to otherwise unreachable areas, swooping like cherubs from heaven in and out of dusty gravel airstrips and rural roads flanked by coconut groves. They were airborne heroes in business or private planes practicing a type of “aeroism” for which GA is seldom lauded but rightfully deserves everyone’s highest respect.
Theirs is the legacy on which Airlift Flyers Aviation (www.ALFA.aero) is founded. Our small planet is all the better thanks to the unassuming boldness of gracious pilots who dared deliver airborne compassion and instill admiration into airlift flyers of future generations. ALFA carries on advocating aviation for a higher purpose, strongly committed as ever to flying for goodness sake. By arranging mission flights ALFA puts wings on charities ultimately serving the poorest of the poor throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. ALFA volunteers are passionate about humanitarian aviation, knowing a single deployment impacts thousands of lives. Whether on the ground and in the air, they go about their deeds quietly without applause or acclaim. The worth of their contribution is too valuable for words and too priceless for a paycheck. The kind of aviation folks with big hearts and small planes alluded to in G. K. Chesterton’s popular quotation: “Angels Fly Because They Take Themselves Lightly”.
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