January 21, 2011

A heart-warming video released this month helps companies with business airplanes support disabled American veterans, even as it educates viewers about the broader benefits of business aircraft to citizens, companies and communities nationwide.

The video, produced by NBAA Member Company Universal Weather & Aviation, Inc., of Houston, TX, shows how companies can donate business aircraft to transport veterans being honored through the “Impact a Hero” program.

Impact a Hero is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, created to provide a means for individuals and companies to support veterans and their families. The organization hosts an annual “Impact a Hero Weekend,” in which veterans from across the country are flown to a single location for a weekend focused on honoring the soldiers’ bravery, heroism and personal sacrifice.

Business airplanes can be the optimal mode of transport to the event for the many veterans whose injuries and disabilities make it difficult or impossible for them to travel by commercial airlines. “Metal detectors don’t work very well for a man with 300 pieces of shrapnel still in his body or severe burns or missing limbs,” said Kellie Green, Universal’s volunteer coordinator for events. “The ordeal of trying to get through the rigid, impersonal security screenings is no way to treat our wounded warriors.”

Universal’s 11-minute video, available at www.impactahero.aero, provides a detailed account of the organization’s weekend event, along with first-hand testimonials from veterans who were only able to attend the event by flying on a business airplane.

“When somebody… has so many injuries, going to an airport, you know, going through security, everybody is looking at you like you have some disease or something – I don’t like that,” said Marine Corporal Ronnie Porta, who has had more than 100 surgeries at Brook Army Medical Center, where he has lived for more than three years since sustaining combat injuries.

“A number of these wounded veterans would have no other means of traveling to and from Houston to attend,” Ralph Vasami, Universal Weather & Aviation CEO, tells video viewers. “It’s just too difficult for them, with the extent of their injuries, from a comfort level, to go via airlines, or drive, or any other means.” Vasami’s company donates its one business jet in support of the event each year. The company’s airplane also helps get veterans to treatment locations through Operation Mend, a partnership of medical centers in Texas and California.

As the video notes, more than 40 wounded veterans will be honored at the 2011 Impact a Hero Weekend, which takes place in Sugarland, TX, from June 4–6. “Any company can help veterans by donating flights in their business aircraft, and they can learn more through this new web page at www.impactahero.aero,” said Universal’s Chris Harley. “We’ll give them all the information they need to participate.”

Thousands of mercy flights are donated yearly by U.S. businesses for individuals in need, from disabled veterans to children with cancer. In fact, according to one study, the business aviation community donated more than 15,000 hours in support of humanitarian lift in a recent year.

Other business aviation contributions honoring veterans are told through the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, sponsored by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. These efforts are highlighted on the campaign web site at www.noplanenogain.org.