Less than 72 hours after the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Cameron King was unloading a Piper Aztec on the ramp at the airport in Port-au-Prince. In the near chaos of the first days, only a few people took notice of King, who looks more like a teenager than a young woman of 23 years. But, as she flew more and more missions, people began to wonder, “Who is this kid and what’s she doing flying here?” So, while on an overnight in Nassau, and in her typical can-do fashion, she commandeered a camera, computer, and printer and fashioned a very official-looking “Humanitarian Pilot” credential badge.
In the first days of their airlift, King worked with Bahamas Habitat pilot Matt Hansen and Abe McIntyre of their island-based sister organization to set up a command center at the Odyssey FBO in Nassau. She served as both a mission pilot and disaster response coordinator for the U.S.-based aviation mission organization. By the time the big push slowed two months later, Bahamas Habitat volunteer pilots had flown more than 400 missions, and delivered more than 125 tons of supplies into small airports in Haiti.
When the earthquake struck, King had logged more than 600 hours total flying time. Although she had advanced through private, commercial, and instructor certificates and was multiengine rated, it was a huge leap to go from school flying to day after day carrying a full load of supplies and medical personnel into demanding strips in a ravaged country.
She recalls the reaction of high-time volunteer pilots who arrived only to discover that “kids” were in charge of a sophisticated operation. “It was a funny moment when they said they were looking for Bahamas Habitat and found two 23-year-olds and a 29-year-old.”
King now flies a Baron with a volunteer water purification team into Haiti on a monthly basis. In village after village they install filters that instantly change the lives of people who used to become sick and often died from water-borne diseases.
She may still look like a kid, but with the food, medical supplies, doctors, nurses, and surgeons she delivered to people in their hours of greatest need, King has a legacy worthy of an old pro.
See more on King—and her efforts in the Bahamas after Hurricane Irene— in “Rally GA: Flight for Survival”