Pilot Jeff Perry checks the cargo of nearly 1,000 pounds stuffed into his Cirrus SR22 airplane at PDK Airport as he joins students and faculty from Oglethorpe University for an Angel Flight of Georgia mission. (Photo © David Tulis - Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Used with permission.)
Katrina destroyed nearly every home and hangar at Diamondhead Airport (66Y), a residential airpark near Gulfport, Mississippi. But residents Melody and Charles Horton are among those vowing they will return and rebuild. They were able to fly their two Comanches to safety before the storm hit. (Photo courtesy Melody Horton.)
The massive rescue and recovery efforts continue along the Gulf Coast, and general aviation aircraft and airports are playing an important role. GA airports have been providing access to hard-hit areas that have been difficult to reach otherwise and also serving as major staging areas for relief efforts.
While civilian traffic is still banned at the heavily damaged Lakefront Airport (NEW) in New Orleans, military and rescue helicopters have begun to use the airport. Fixed-wing mosquito control aircraft have landed there to check on damage to their base of operations.
The airport will return to public-use service, although there is no estimate as to when, said Louisiana Aviation Director Anthony M. Culp. There is no power or services, and fuel is to be checked soon for contamination.
A generator used to provide signage and runway lighting is still under water. Since the runways extend into Lake Pontchartrain, the soil beneath them must be tested for load-bearing capacity. The city has started booking conventions and tourist events once again starting in April 2006.
GA aircraft large and small are flying literally hundreds of missions each day. Some of the owners-builders of Vans RV experimental aircraft have been flying relief supplies into the Gulf Coast area. You can read about some of their experiences.
Angel Flight of Georgia and other regional/state-based Angel Flights have been working directly with the Office of Emergency Preparedness and other local law enforcement officials to supply the shelters in the areas around Baton Rogue. They're also working directly with community officials in about 10 towns in the gulf area.
Members of the all-volunteer Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, are conducting ongoing emergency operations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Hundreds of CAP members are supporting Hurricane Katrina relief operations by flying damage assessment, emergency official transport, search and rescue, and emergency locator transmitter silencing missions. CAP volunteers also have conducted ground search and rescue operations and disseminated supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard.
For more on Hurricane Katrina, its impact on aviation, and on how you can help, click here.
September 9, 2005