Sept. 6, 2019
The destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian – particularly in the island nation of the Bahamas – has prompted a huge, and what undoubtedly will be a long-lasting, humanitarian response from the business aviation community.
Volunteers are gearing up at airports across Florida and elsewhere, ready to start flying supplies and relief missions as early as Friday to the Bahamas.
“We are just waiting for the approval,” said NBAA member Brad Pierce, president of Restaurant Equipment World, who flies his Cirrus SR22 out of Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) extensively for business, and who regularly flies humanitarian missions. Pierce – whose first flight into the Bahamas will be to bring essential supplies down and then evacuate a family of three, one of whom is pregnant – knows that aviation relief efforts will be needed for weeks, perhaps months.
“We will fly as long as the need is there,” he said.
Those who want to help are advised that in the short term, assisting with donating supplies and funds for relief efforts will be as important as the ability to fly missions to the Bahamas.
According to Ops Group, “The situation in the Bahamas [Friday morning] is extremely challenging for relief crews and operators. With the weekend fast approaching, we anticipate large numbers of GA and BA operators and pilots in Florida wanting to fly out to the Bahamas. Bahamas ATC, and the airspace, is saturated, and any increase can be a further danger. Because of the geography, and the severity of the destruction, this is a different situation than most others.”
Airports, FBOs, regional aviation groups, humanitarian groups and others are all coordinating help, such as locations to drop off supplies, which airports are staging aircraft, etc.
The South Florida Business Aviation Association immediately launched into action by updating its members, organizing multiple drop-off locations, listing the most needed supplies and providing links to airports and FBOs that are offering fuel discounts and waiving fees. At Boca Raton Airport (BCT), the airport administration office is serving as a collection site for donations, and the airport is suspending all customs clearing fees until Sept. 18.
NBAA Air Traffic Services Program Manager John Kosak noted that an airspace flow program is expected to be run daily, likely into next week, to help manage the amount of traffic into Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau, Bahamas.
“This could be expanded in size to cover more airports as the desire to fly supplies into the Bahamas grows,” said Kosak. “A recovery TFR to further limit access to the area would not be out of the question, but that has not been issued as of this moment.”
FBOs across Florida are getting flights coordinated for when they are cleared into the Bahamas, and many are using hangars as staging areas for supplies. At Signature Flight Support at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), station manager Jose Cabrera and his team have established a collection point for supplies at FBO, while Jet Access Aviation has donated aircraft and crew for the crossing to the islands. Local companies and organizations – including Yum Brands, the Christ Fellowship of Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Department of Airports – have donated food, water, and other essentials.
“As someone who grew up on an island and witnessed the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico first-hand, I understand how difficult the situation is immediately following a storm,” said Cabrera, noting that supplies can be dropped off at any Signature FBO location within Florida.
Humanitarian groups involved in relief efforts such as PALS, AERObridge, Air Care Alliance, Angel Flight and many more are coordinating flights and supplies; NBAA members wanting to help are encouraged to contact any of these groups.
NBAA’s Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (HERO) Database offers a list of groups, as well as ways to register aircraft for emergency missions. View the HERO database.