Haiti and Dominican Republic, May 12, 2010 – General aviation (GA) played a large role in the days and weeks following the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. That quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, the strongest to hit Haiti since 1770.
“The pilots, the aircraft donors, they were like angels in the depths of hell,” said Ron Gatewood, who served in Haiti as a director of aviation for Air Serv International, the NBAA Member Company that uses GA aircraft to deliver relief supplies for almost every humanitarian organization in the world. Gatewood flew a Piper Chieftain for 206 hours in two months, a total of 23,988 miles. He transported 511 people to and from Port au Prince, Haiti, and carried nearly 28,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. World Vision International and CARE made the effort possible.
“I saw it all, from just after the quake until the rescue effort became a rebuilding effort,” he continued. “I saw a side of GA I’d never seen before, the humanitarian and disaster relief side.
“GA helped the ‘little people,’ the small clinics, small orphanages, small organizations, and small churches supported by donations from U.S. citizens,” he said. “Donated GA aircraft made it possible to get their people and supplies to the disaster area.”
In transporting volunteer workers, Gatewood also saw the sometimes-rare shiny side of human nature. He asked one of his passengers, a doctor from South Africa, why she volunteered for Haiti duty, at her own expense. “Two reasons,” she said. “One reason is that I’m a doctor and these people needed help. The other reason was to test myself, to see if I could hold up in the middle of such a disaster.”