Bahamas Habitat, an organization that has led relief efforts into Haiti’s smaller outlying airports with volunteer general aviation aircraft, has launched an online system for pilots to raise funding for their fuel for Haiti flight missions called “Pilots Pay It Forward.”
“Our new system is going to make it possible for even more pilots to participate in our Haiti relief missions and allow pilots to easily come back to help again,” said John Armstrong, president of Bahamas Habitat. “Our most common request has been to help with fuel costs and the system provides a great way to meet this need.”
Pilots, crew and other volunteers can use the online system for fundraising by creating a customized page with their unique story, he explained. Then they can promote to their network of friends and associates a request to support their flight missions. Donations are tracked for each pilot and they are able to submit their fuel receipts for reimbursement against the funds they have raised.
“We have flown over 200 missions into Haiti so far and many of our pilots have come back multiple times. The system makes it possible for pilots to keep coming back and providing their aircraft far beyond their individual ability to pay for their fuel expenses themselves,” added Armstrong.
Bahamas Habitat indicated that it has tens of thousands of pounds of critical supplies that still need to be moved from various depots around the US into Haiti. It developed the system so pilots could continue to fly these missions even after the urgency of the earthquake has left the headlines, officials said.
The first two pilots to take advantage of the new Pilots Pay It Forward system were Rich Grayson of Savannah and Dario Quiros of Connecticut, who flew their first missions in late January. On their first flights they were able to deliver medicine and water purification equipment that helped to produce clean water for hundreds of thousands of people. “It was very rewarding and we knew we wanted to come back as soon as possible,” said Quiros. “The Pilots Pay It Forward system makes it easy for us to continue our service beyond what we could fund on our own. It will be a great help to all the mission pilots.”
Bahamas Habitat relief missions have involved all types of general aviation aircraft, including King Airs, Pilatus PC-12s, Bonanzas, Aztecs, Cessna 180s and everything in between. All pilots interested in considering flying missions, whether partial or all the way to Haiti, are encouraged to first volunteer on the Bahamas Habitat website. All registered volunteers will receive instructions on how to use the new Pilots Pay It Forward System and gain access to the mission flight opportunities.