General Aviation is a Valuable Asset During Hurricane Season
Doug Johnson, Guest Columnist for Pensacola News Journal
I will never forget being in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. The area experienced one of its worst natural disasters. Roads were flooded, houses were destroyed, and people were left with nothing. Many of us in Texas felt a sense of urgency to do something, but were seemingly out of options. In our first attempt to reach the communities in need, our trucks and trailers were turned back by flooded roads. It became apparent that the versatility of general aviation was the only resource for disaster relief and recovery in the immediate aftermath of the storm. A team of pilots, local volunteers, and small aircraft decided that we would just fly over the roads and answer the call for Southeast Texas.
It didn’t take long to get to work. From a collection of friends, aviation professionals, local elected officials, and airport managers, Operation Airdrop started organically with a mission to help those in need. With command centers in Beaumont Municipal Airport and Denton Enterprise Airport, we mobilized local support to load planes, manage logistics, and deliver essential supplies through general aviation. After just a couple of days, our operations had grown so much that we had to transfer our records from a white board in an airport conference room to a digital database that can accommodate the needs of a national organization.
With pilots stretching every corner of the country, our organization has served almost every major storm since Hurricane Harvey. From the Carolinas to The Caribbean, general aviation is a life-saving tool that provides immediate relief to these communities when it would otherwise take days to receive aid. We will receive distress calls from city officials and local residents that are in life or death situations. From the time it takes to gather supplies, load planes, and deliver those supplies, we can complete a successful mission in about 3 hours. During our most successful efforts, I will get a call back from the same people telling us to stop deliveries because of the massive surplus they have!