Bahamas Habitat’s aviation relief operation passed a milestone Feb. 2, completing its 150th relief mission to Haiti. Volunteer pilots and aircraft have delivered more than 125,000 pounds of medical supplies and food, as well as medical personnel and equipment to Haiti’s outlying airports using general aviation aircraft.
“This is an amazing accomplishment by everyone involved,” said John Armstrong, president. “When we first issued a call for help from the general aviation community, we had no idea of the magnitude of everyone’s generosity.
“We have had a rush of requests from other organizations to help get injured people out and more medical supplies in. Private pilots with aircraft have been volunteering and joining in the efforts from all over the country and even Canada,” he continued. “We have medical, food and other supplies in Nassau and Fort Lauderdale that need to be moved in and the list of medical personnel needing access to the areas we serve continues to grow.”
In the first weeks of the organization’s support efforts, a variety of aircraft — from King Airs, Pilatus PC-12s, Bonanzas, Cessna 180s and a Grumman Albatross — were used to make relief flights, he reported. “Our larger aircraft are moving critical equipment and medical personnel and our smaller aircraft are loading up with medical supplies, food and whatever else they can fit in,” he said. “This is a demonstration of the amazing capabilities of private aviation.”
While other relief efforts are focusing their efforts on supplying Port-au-Prince, Bahamas Habitat has been able to send its smaller aircraft to Port-du-Paix, Pignon, La Gonave, Les Cayes, Jacmel, Cap Haitien and other outlying towns and islands,” noted Abraham McIntyre, executive director of Bahamas Methodist Habitat and chief coordinator of the organization’s operations from “Command Central” in Nassau. “People are moving out to these areas seeking help and evacuation and the clinics and hospitals are overrun there without enough medical supplies. In many cases we are their primary lifeline. We are making a difference and the impact is growing.”
Armstrong stressed the growing need for volunteers who have piston or turbine twin-engine aircraft and high performance singles, as well as bush planes.
“These larger, more powerful aircraft can take more supplies with each flight; sometimes doubling or tripling the value of each mission, while the specialized short field aircraft can go places others can’t,” he said. “For example, most of the airfields we serve are over 3,000 feet of paved runway accessible to our volunteers. Then there is the example of the 150,000 people on the island of La Gonave offshore from Port-au-Prince. The normal supply is all but cut off because the small island’s docks are destroyed. Some of our smaller airplanes can get in and out of the island’s tiny 1,800-foot dirt strip.”
Aircraft owners and pilots can volunteer online at BahamasHabitat.org.