Want to help in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey? While general aviation pilots are being sought to provide relief efforts, it is imperative that these missions are performed safely.
That’s why Patient Airlift Services (PALS) and Sky Hope Network developed some basic guidelines for volunteer pilots wishing to fly in support of relief efforts following disasters or major emergencies.
In addition to these recommendations, officials with the Air Care Alliance also recommend that pilots take the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Flight Safety Institute’s short online interactive tutorial called “Public Benefit Flying: Balancing Safety and Compassion.”
It is available on AOPA’s Online Learning page. If you are not an AOPA member simply register for web access when asked.
Coordinate all flights with a disaster relief flight charity
Airspace and airports are often congested after a disaster. In addition, information changes by the hour. Coordinating with a disaster relief flight charity can ensure that resources are being maximized in an effort to save lives and help people.Sky Hope works with general aviation groups, such as the National Business Aviation Association, AOPA and Air Care Alliance, and many other government agencies to make sure it is providing the most up-to-date information to pilots.
“Additionally, we often combine needs on the same flight, maximizing the capability of our aircraft,” Sky Hope officials note.
Operate with two pilots
The details surrounding a disaster relief flight can be challenging. Operate with two pilots to manage the workload.
Stay on top of NOTAMS and TFRs
Check them regularly, and again prior to departure, for every flight. They can be enforced at any time.
Experience is key
The abnormal conditions during relief efforts call for experienced pilots who are instrument rated and current.
Operate aircraft with traffic avoidance systems
Radar and flight following may not be available in the disaster area. In addition, there will likely be a high volume of flight operations, including private and government aircraft. Additionally, helicopters are often operating in disaster areas, causing additional air traffic.
Do not depend on fuel in disaster areas
Often fuel supplies have not been replenished or are in short supply. If fuel is available, there may be long waits to receive it or cash may be required to pay.
Prepare for potential mechanical problems ahead of time
Resources to help fix flat tires or fix aircraft discrepancies will likely not be available. Consider adding a few spare tires and other items that may needed for any common mechanical issues. You do not want to get stuck in the disaster area due to an aircraft mechanical.
Do not load and drop supplies without checking in with a relief flight charity
Dropping supplies on the ramp of a disaster area airport complicates the relief effort and can hinder ground operations. Coordinate with the relief flight charities for any supply or volunteer needs. If you are flying supplies for a charity flight organization, use proper weighing equipment and prepare manifests.
Avoid unnecessary flights
If you are flying for curiosity sake, don’t. There are many needs trying to be met after a disaster and adding another aircraft operation can use valuable time and resources needed for other flights.
Prepare for uncertain ground circumstances
Disaster areas are constantly changing. You may arrive at an airport under military control. You may have to deal with security issues on the ground. There may be evacuees at the airport asking for transportation. Be prepared.
Recognize the end of a mission
One of the most important things a community can do after a disaster is to resume normal economic operations. An abundance of donated supplies or donated flights can cause disruptions to normal local commerce.