As Hurricane Florence barrels towards the southeastern coast of the United States, many pilots will be preparing for relief flights after the storm, bringing in needed supplies and transporting out people and animals who are left homeless by the storm.
In an open letter to volunteer pilots, officials with the Air Care Alliance encourage pilots to help, but not before doing some preflight work.
“Individual pilots and owners should work with established groups,” is the first piece of advice. Officials note that groups have procedures and staffs to make contact with agencies involved in relief work and to provide appropriate assignments to new volunteers.
- Be aware that airports and other landing areas may become submerged or damaged. Find out if your proposed destination will be safe.
- Observe all Temporary Flight Restrictions and if you need to fly into one be sure to get the appropriate authorizations.
- Double check all your planning and do not rush into affected areas or situations. You do NOT want to become part of the disaster!
Because of the calls for boats and for vehicles that can operate in flood waters, as well as to offshore locations, there may be opportunities for seaplane pilots to help after the storm.
Air Care Alliance officials warn, however, that “because of storm-related winds and clouds, turbid waters, large amounts of debris, and hidden submerged objects, such as signposts, one must make sure that bodies of water are safe for landing, with the determination made by those familiar with seaplane operations. Be sure to have communications with those at the landing areas. Know before you go!”
Few groups have seaplane pilots and owners enrolled. So each group will determine if and how to enroll and provide orientation. All at the same time their regular pilots are keeping the staff busy with land-based relief operations.
New volunteer pilots may find themselves grounded after the storm, instead providing essential help with non-flying tasks, officials note. New volunteers also may find themselves in the right seat until they can go through the normal enrollment process of the relief agencies.
“This kind of help is just as critical as flying,” officials say.
Fly Safely While Flying to Help Others
Patient Airlift Services, an Air Care Alliance member group, and its partner Sky Hope Network have developed some basic guidelines for volunteer pilots wishing to fly in support of relief efforts following hurricanes, as well as any other disasters or major emergencies.
In addition to these recommendations, officials with the Air Care Alliance also recommend that before taking off, pilots should take the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute’s short online interactive tutorial called “Public Benefit Flying: Balancing Safety and Compassion.”
If you are not an AOPA member, you can register for web access to the course when asked.
During the first gathering of the Air Care Alliance in 1990 and in subsequent meetings, EVAC, the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, has provided seminars and workshops on general aviation participation in emergency and disaster relief efforts.
EVAC continues to provide emergency and disaster relief information to ACA and the groups, and has also gathered useful information and links on its Relief Information Page.
Otherwise keep in touch with the groups in your area to find out what they and their pilots may be doing in responding to the need for help following Hurricane Florence (and others).
To find groups, use the Air Care Alliance automated “Request a Flight or Info” system. Click on AirCareAlliance.org/submit-request-for-assistance and follow the instructions.
You can browse through the alliance’s complete list of groups here.