The call to action that launches a corporate aircraft—or a fleet of them—on potentially lifesaving flights to or from earthquake-ravaged Haiti usually comes in the form of a simple text message from CARE (Corporate Aviation Responding in Emergencies).
The volunteer network co-founded by Robin Eissler in Austin, Texas, directed 1,500 volunteers to Haiti in the first 30 days after a devastating earthquake struck on Jan. 12, and individuals and corporations are still providing airplanes and crews today—all at their own expense. Donated flights to and from the Caribbean island are valued at more than $6 million in direct operating costs, but their worth in terms of lives saved, relationships built, and goodwill is incalculable.
The resourcefulness of the aviation community enabled CARE to land Cessna 208 Caravans on narrow roads in the hardest hit, most remote portions of Haiti, clear customs with hand-written notes, and quickly establish warehouses for collecting food, water, medicine, and equipment in key locations.
Trust among pilots, aircraft owners, and CARE—as well as a desperate need for their services—enabled the ad hoc group to launch their airplanes on long, international trips based on nothing more than a brief voice or text message. In many cases, the people launching the flights, those performing them, and the people benefiting from them, had never met.
“The generosity of the aviation community in responding to this tragedy has been absolutely astounding,” said Eissler, whose regular business is Jet Quest, a turbine aircraft sales firm in Austin. “We‘ve been able to use aircraft ranging from a Cessna 206 to a Gulfstream V and everything in between, and we‘ve been able to avoid bottlenecks and red tape and get aid directly to the people who need it most.”