Commercial airports closed when Hurricane Sandy soaked the East Coast last Monday and created problems not only for travellers, but for immediate relief efforts as well. The storm was so ferocious that my own home in Cleveland, Ohio - some 500 miles from the East Coast went without power and heat for several days. Hurricane Sandy also, “caused the cancellation of around 20,000 flights,” the Economist reported.
As a member of the NBAA, I am proud to see an industry-wide approach to natural disaster relief and humanitarian charity work. In response, NBAA created a Sandy-focused web page to keep track of open airports and coordinate some relief efforts.
“Business aviation has long served as a lifeline to people and communities in crisis,” according to the NBAA. Business aircraft brokers and operators are additionally skilled at short-term responses. Adaptation and flexibility in a dynamic situation are also key characteristics of the chartered aircraft industry. While commercial airports close or become flooded with delayed traffic, the smaller airfields that business aircraft can access becomes additionally valuable.
The NBAA Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (HERO) Database is available to those in need. Like a phone tree in a volunteer fire brigade, the HERO database is a list of people in the business aviation community who have signed on as part of disaster-response team. One effort lead by AERObridge, got special permission for corporate humanitarian flights into Farmingdale’s Republic Airport (FRG) and JFK International Airport to bring supplies into Lower Manhattan and other boroughs in New York City. The NBAA reported that by Saturday night, 32 flights were coordinated with an estimated delivery of 94,000 lbs. of relief supplies.
That’s an amazing start to a mission that’s only just begun. But again, our industry of transportation providers, is capable to get help and supplies directly to where they’re needed. Just prior to Sandy’s landfall, the NBAA also helped coordinate the fundraising of $371,000 to support the Corporate Angel Network (CAN), according to a release. CAN is a non-profit organization that provides life-saving flights for cancer patients, often by placing patients in empty seats on business aircraft. Since its founding in 1981, CAN has arranged nearly 40,000 patient flights.
My heart goes out to all those still without power and warmth. I encourage my colleagues in the aviation industry to kindly help out where our skills can best be served. In the aftermath of natural disasters, people need one another. My son’s friend flew a red-eye from Hawaii to New Jersey to be there for his family through this tough time. Those on the ground need help coordinating cargo and getting dry food to the hungry. In times of adversity we have come together around a single cause, even in ways we thought were never possible.
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