As the skies opened and floods devastated Texas on Memorial Day weekend, general aviation offered shelter and a lifeline. Redbird Skyport in San Marcos, Texas, remained open through the storms and their aftermath, providing fuel, shelter, and a logistical base for rescue efforts that were in full swing during the holiday weekend, and continued after.
A dozen National Guard Blackhawk helicopters cycled in and out, dropping off rescued victims and taking on fuel before launching on their next mission; the Red Cross set up a mobile medical center on site; STAR Flight Medevac and local firefighters and medical responders also based rescue operations at the FBO operated by Redbird Flight Simulations. FBO staff offered dry towels and free food from their café to flight crews and those they rescued.
“Our team of dedicated, professional and enthusiastic employees who were able to safely travel to our facility did so to support all of the local and national rescue and relief efforts, which makes me extremely proud,” said John Koenreich, general manager of Redbird Skyport, in a news release. “Our facility is located in close proximity to the flooding, and I’m sure the streamlined transport and delivery of victims helped save time, and hopefully, lives. With help from our Phillips 66 supplier and City Service Valcon, we were able to meet the fuel demands of this high-traffic situation with ease. I also want to thank each and every person who came out and did their part to help with the effort, including the local Robinson R44 helicopter pilots who are continuing to search for missing persons.”
By June 2, authorities had attributed eight deaths to the flooding in the region. The recovery effort was ongoing, and Redbird Skyport was not finished helping. The Bluebonnet Fly-In, which had been postponed from May 30 because of the weather, was held June 6, and drew 150 aircraft and about 500 attendees, according to a spokesperson. Proceeds of roughly $1,000 raised during the event will be donated to local relief organizations.