Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta said Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would provide more than $16 million to help restore general aviation airports damaged in hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"These airports are all important because they're supporting the energy sectors of our economy," Mineta told AOPA in an exclusive interview. "They're the connections for people who need to come and go from this to do their jobs. They get engineers out to the oil rigs, and they provide offshore patrols for the nation's pipelines." The regional general aviation airports were also important staging areas for evacuation and relief flights.
Mineta, who is scheduled to speak at the November 3 General Session at AOPA Expo, told AOPA that the DOT would also request supplemental Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds from Congress for additional hurricane repair.
"I'm also going to request legislative language to allow us to use AIP funds to reimburse airports for damage done to terminals, to hangars, and to other facilities that would not normally be under the AIP program," Mineta said during the interview aboard N3, the FAA's Citation Excel. More on Sec. Mineta and GA airports...
( See video excerpts of the interview and Sec. Mineta's inspection tour.)
Photo: Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (center) inspects hurricane damage at Southeast Texas Regional Airport (BPT) . (Photo Â© 2005 AOPA)
(Updated: September 30, 2005, 3:45 p.m. EDT)
Regular air service is returning to Louis B. Armstrong International Airport (MSY) in New Orleans, with Continental, Delta, and Northwest already flying, and American and Southwest scheduled to start operations this week. That's pretty remarkable, considering what has happened at that airport.
Even more remarkable are the things accomplished at MSY immediately following Hurricane Katrina's impact. FAA and airport personnel rode out the storm at the airport, and in less than 24 hours, got a runway up and operating to begin handling the hundreds of round-the-clock relief and medical evacuation flights.
"FAA controllers ran our helicopter flight line without incident for several days, with no sleep and under the worst conditions," wrote an AOPA member and doctor who was treating evacuees at the airport as part of a disaster medical assistance team.
"They kept us on the ground safe and I am grateful," said Dr. Hemant H. Vankawala. "The world will never know how bad the initial stages of the evacuation actually were."
Read Dr. Vankawala's first-person account of what it was like at Armstrong International.
(September 19, 2005)
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. More on GA and Katrina relief efforts...
Photo, above left: Students and faculty from Oglethorpe University assist Angel Flight of Georgia volunteers and pilots at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport (PDK) loading non-perishable supplies for Katrina victims into GA aircraft headed for Baton Rouge. Photo, above right: Extra cargo is stacked on the ramp behind Greg Bitzer's Vans RV6 airplane at PDK. (Both photos Â© David Tulis, Atlanta Journal-Constitution - used with permission.)
(September 9, 2005)
With the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina expanding, more temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) have been established over the Gulf Coast area to clear the airspace for aircraft flying humanitarian missions.
The Joint Task Force Katrina Airspace Control Plan has established a Katrina Joint Operations Area from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Mobile, Alabama. The control plan airspace extends from the surface to 5,000 feet agl. Pilots not involved in the relief effort are also asked to avoid flight over that airspace. More on Gulf Coast TFRs...
(Updated: September 19, 2005, 5:59 p.m. EDT)
GA volunteer groups begin flying relief
Many of the volunteer aviation groups and individual pilots have already started flying relief missions for the victims of Hurricane Katrina — and their rescuers.
Here are just a few examples:
Sarah Riehm, executive director of Angel Flight South Central, is establishing a shuttle service, using Angel Flight pilots and operating out of Baton Rouge, to evacuate high-risk people to Texas. Jerry Dorr'e, Angel Flight South Central's national homeland security emergency air transportation system emergency transportation coordinator, is setting up operations at Louis B. Armstrong airport in New Orleans.
AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer David Parrish at Bowman Field (LOU) in Louisville, Kentucky, is recruiting area pilots to work with Vacation Rentals for Families.com, which is finding people willing to open their vacation homes for use by Katrina evacuees. More on GA volunteer groups...
As the known extent of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina continues to worsen, AOPA members have been contacting their association, asking how they can use their skills as pilots to aid in the rescue and relief effort.
"We all want to jump in and help in any way possible. But our piloting skills are not what relief workers need — not yet," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "However, AOPA is working with the Department of Homeland Security to determine the best way GA can help. They are aware of our members' desire to help and will get back to us as soon as they have a clear idea of how to use those remarkable assets."
There will be many ways members can help. One key resource to consider is Air Care Alliance. It promotes and supports the work of dozens of organizations like the Angel Flight groups across the country and has established a volunteer protocol on its Web site. Links to its volunteer pilot organizations around the country also are available. ACA is working with AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Thomas Marino in Baton Rouge to set up a liaison with the Louisiana governor's office. Another resource is Emergency Volunteer Air Corps (EVAC), which also has a Hurricane Katrina link on its Web site.
For nearly 64 years, the Civil Air Patrol has been providing important search and rescue support for a wide variety of needs. If you are not already a member, you might not be able to fly missions with them, but you could certainly provide critical ground and logistics support. More on how you can help Hurricane Katrina victims...
(Updated: September 2, 2005, 12:45 p.m. EDT)
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. More on general aviation and Katrina relief...
(Updated: September 9, 2005, 9:45 a.m. EDT)
The FAA's automated flight service stations in Louisiana and Mississippi are working toward restoring full service, but they are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The Greenwood, Mississippi, AFSS has restored its air-to-ground communication frequencies, but the toll-free telephone lines are still out of service. Those calls are being rerouted to AFSS facilities in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Jackson, Tennessee. The FAA reports that Greenwood's local telephone numbers are working, although calls from AOPA headquarters to those numbers didn't go through. More on AFSS services in disaster area...
Photo: Greenwood, Mississippi, AFSS (file photo).
(September 7, 2005)
Limited information is now available from Mississippi and Louisiana state aviation officials on damages from Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana Aviation Director Anthony M. Culp said pilots are volunteering their aircraft and services. "There is no way we can use them right now, but if they want to register their aircraft or services, they should register on the Web at www.swern.gov or www.nerr.gov and click the red button beside 'Provide Resources.' If their services are needed, they will be called," Culp said. Fuel is available at many of a half-dozen airports listed by Culp as damaged, but all the fuel is used for rescue and emergency operations. The worst hit is New Orleans Lakefront where there is no power, lighting, or fuel. It will be a considerable time before that airport is reopened. George R. Carr Memorial Air Field in Bogalusa, Louisiana, had lots of wind damage. Numerous aircraft were flipped on the ramp or damaged by falling hangars. The airport is so far inland that aircraft owners thought they would be safe from the storm, Culp said. There is no phone or cell phone service there, and runway lights are being powered by generators. In Mississippi federal and state officials still have had no contact with the worst-hit airports but are attempting to survey airports by car and by air. Other than damaged hangars and power losses, airports surveyed so far seem to have escaped severe damage. At Picayune Municipal Airport, a twin-engine airplane was flipped on its side. Power is off, and fuel is unavailable.
Photos: Lott International (PQL) in Pascagoula and Stennis International (HSA) in Bay St. Louis, courtesy of Thomas Booth, Jr., Mississippi Department of Transportation.
(September 6, 2005)
As the price of automobile gasoline skyrockets, and spot shortages of auto fuel are developing, members have been asking what will happen to aviation gasoline.
"We've called the major petroleum refiners to find out, but so far they haven't been able to tell us much," said Rob Hackman, AOPA manager of regulatory and certification policy. "There are some things we do know, however. So far, we haven't received any reports of aviation gasoline shortages." More on aviation gasoline...
(September 2, 2005)
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the AOPA Insurance Agency (AOPAIA) is helping aircraft owners in the affected areas.
"As of Wednesday, we'd already handled about 20 claims from affected members in Florida and Louisiana," said Greg Sterling, AOPAIA executive vice president and general manager. "We know that many of our members are also dealing with catastrophic damage to homes, automobiles, boats, and more. It's our job to take the hassle of out their aircraft insurance claim, so they can concentrate on more important matters." More on aircraft insurance...
(August 31, 2005)