General aviation continues to make a valuable contribution to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. And literally thousands of GA pilots and aircraft owners are eager to volunteer to do more.
" Angel Flight America is flying 70 to 80 missions a day, primarily to evacuate people to safer locations," said Ed Boyer, chairman of Angel Flight America. "We're fully integrated with FEMA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and Mennonite Disaster Services, flying legitimate relief missions at their requests."
Meanwhile, aviation businesses are providing help as well. For example, Jetscape Services, an FBO at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, is donating five cents to the Red Cross for every gallon of fuel it sells and is also offering $1 per gallon discount on fuel purchases by relief aircraft.
Many individual pilots are currently frustrated that they can't find a way to fly relief missions right now. However, the disaster relief agencies say logistical coordination is absolutely critical to make the most effective use of resources and not overwhelm the limited infrastructure in the disaster area.
"We currently have 6,200 volunteer pilots trained and certified to work with relief agencies as part of our Homeland Security Emergency Air Transportation System," said Boyer. "We welcome more volunteers who can be trained for future missions, but right now our critical need is donations to keep our aircraft in the air and cover rising fuel costs." Angel Flight America wants to raise $2 million to help cover costs for Katrina disaster relief.
"There are so many in need, and this is our way to help," Harlan Hamlin, who has coordinated both donations and flights, told The Citizen newspaper of Fayette, Georgia. "This is God's work."
Hamlin also owns Flight Explorer and had previously been down in the disaster area installing the software to allow coordinators to track relief flights.
Updated: September 9, 2005, 9:45 a.m. EDT