General aviation at all levels marshaled forces to take aid to the survivors of the massive earthquake that hit Haiti earlier this month.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) went into action immediately, making contact with key government officials to arrange that emergency flights from anyplace in the U.S. could be taken to an airport in Florida for transfer to military aircraft for the trip to Haiti, reducing the number of flights trying to get into the one runway at the disaster area. AOPA connected with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), which had quickly set up on its website requests and information about using corporate aircraft to transport personnel or emergency items. AOPA also urged members not to fly to Haiti unless requested but to compute the cost of a flight and donate that amount to relief agencies.
Military air traffic controllers set up operations on the ground because the control tower had been destroyed. Air traffic to and from the island was so heavy that many flights had to be diverted. Hundreds of aircraft circled and waited for landing clearance with priority flights given preference.
The actual amount of aid proved by aircraft may never be fully known, but those who witness and participate in the assistance know the value of flight.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.