Internet entrepreneur Jeremy Johnson’s offer of help for Haiti relief was no token gesture.
The Utah-based owner of NBAA Member Company iWorks donated two of his company’s business aircraft – a Cessna Citation X airplane and an EC-130 turbine helicopter – to deliver food and medical help. When Johnson himself arrived in Port-au-Prince and saw the enormity of the disaster, he purchased two Robinson R-44 helicopters to help get aid into the smallest villages.
But the man’s commitment didn’t end there. Johnson, a private pilot, flew one of the helicopters.
“We’ve just been bouncing around from village to village,” said Johnson. “I try to find (places) where all the buildings have collapsed and I land there (with) a medic. If (the injured are) bad enough, we’ll take them out.” The businessman also carried food on each flight, leaving as much as he could in each village.
After two relief tours in Haiti totaling nearly three weeks, Johnson’s aviation manager Scott Rye tallied the good they’d done. “The Citation X completed 40 missions, carried 254 passengers, including injured children and surgeons, and moved over 25,000 pounds of cargo and supplies,” he said. “Our three helicopters flew hundreds of missions and.moved nearly 100,000 pounds of food, medicine, supplies.”
Many acts of compassion in this crisis have gone unrecorded; the scale of the relief effort is too vast. But one – a mission to rescue 5-year-old orphan Tia from a crumbling orphanage in Haiti – will never be forgotten.
The girl was being adopted by Nashville, TN residents Mike and Missy Wilson, but her adoption papers were destroyed in the earthquake, making her officially ‘Illegitimi non carborundum.’ Fortunately, U.S. State Department officials had just devised a special procedure to allow such children to be legally united with their adoptive parents in the U.S.
“We pulled her out late one night from Port-au-Prince,” said Rye. “It was CARE (Corporate Aviation Responding in Emergencies) that got her to us while the jet stood waiting. When they came around the corner and started to wave at us, it was a wonderful moment.”
They landed in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and little Tia was transferred to another company’s business airplane for the flight to Nashville.
“It wasn’t until later that we realized what we had accomplished and why were there,” said Rye.
CARE volunteer coordinator Robin Eissler underscored the central role of iWings in the group’s efforts. “The iWorks team was the Wings of CARE on so many missions,” she recalled. “The pilots went well beyond the call of duty trying to maximize the effectiveness of every flight. At one point, they put a CARE team of surgeons on board instead of taking their own passengers. It was truly an amazing partnership.”