GA pitches in on hurricane relief and rescue efforts

If you fly a turboprop or a multiengine aircraft, Kenneth Rusnak, executive director and CEO of Angel Flight America, wants to hear from you. In addition to providing transportation to medical appointments, Angel Flight operates the Homeland Security Emergency Air Transportation System (HSEATS), which uses GA aircraft to help in times of national crisis, such as the devastation left by Katrina.

“We have over 200 airplanes ready to go,” he said, noting that one was on its way out carrying fresh personnel to relieve a helicopter crew that had been working for 36 hours.

As this issue was going to press, only daylight operations were being permitted at airports outside of New Orleans and just one runway at Louis Armstrong International Airport had been reopened for rescue and relief operations. There also were TFRs over hurricane-stricken areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Pilots returning from missions tell heartbreaking tales of the devastation — and sights they never thought possible. “One of our pilots, who was flying over what used to be a shopping mall, said there were alligators, sharks and snakes in the parking lot,” Rusnak said.

Clean-up efforts are expected to take months — or even years.

Officials at the National Business Aviation Association, which had slated its annual convention for November in New Orleans, made the decision Aug. 31 to find a new location for the convention, which is one of the largest aviation get-togethers in the world.

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