January 14, 2010
By Craig L. Fuller
As we begin to learn more about the extent of the destruction in Haiti, hear about the staggering death toll, and see heart-breaking images coming from the area, we all want to jump in our aircraft and fly down to help. But government officials and disaster experts say that’s not the best way to help right now.
AOPA has been working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, and other government agencies to determine the best way pilots can contribute to the relief effort. Because of the damaged airport infrastructure and the large number of relief flights already taking place, the best thing pilots can do for now is donate money and stay clear of the area. This will allow military aircraft and humanitarian agencies to get into the area and begin the relief effort.
In addition, AOPA has collaborated with the National Business Aviation Association on a Web site that will allow pilots to donate their services to fly doctors, search and rescue dogs, and other vital personnel and materials to a central collection point in southern Florida. To sign up, please visit NBAA’s Web site.
Alternatively, we encourage pilots to consider donating the cost of a flight to Haiti in their GA aircraft to an established organization that is helping with the relief efforts. To help you determine the cost, we’ve calculated the flight time from Florida’s Miami International to Port-au-Prince for various GA aircraft. For aircraft with cruise speeds of 110 knots, the flight would take 5.5 hours; 140-knot cruise speed, 4.5 hours; and 160-knot cruise speed, 4 hours. The average price of avgas this week is $4.61 a gallon.
If you are considering making a donation, thoroughly research the organization before you give money. However, here are some that we know are already participating in relief efforts. Samaritan’s Purse and Missionary Flights International are flying general aviation aircraft into Haiti. Other established organizations helping with the relief effort include the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, and Mission Aviation Fellowship.
If you are already a member of a volunteer organization that is helping with the relief efforts, contact your organization to find the best way to help. Also check to see if your volunteer aviation organization is a member of the Air Care Alliance, which has created a Web page of information on disaster relief flights.
The immediate outpouring of generosity from the GA community has been heartening. We all want to help, and by donating to these organizations, we can make an immediate difference. We will continue to keep you updated about the best ways to help and the GA community’s response to this tragedy.
AOPA expressed concern in a meeting with town officials from East Hampton, New York, that restrictions proposed to curb airport noise “overwhelmingly” generated by transient commercial flights would unfairly burden traditional airport users.
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