Banyan Air loading cases of water bottles into airplane

Oct. 4, 2017

Individual aircraft operators and aid coordinating organizations are not the only ones that have helped provide relief to victims of this season’s hurricanes. FBOs have done their part, too. For example, Banyan Air Service, a large FBO located at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), became a center for relief efforts after hurricanes struck Florida and the Caribbean.

Banyan staff launched into action immediately following Hurricane Irma, and they haven’t stopped since. For weeks, FBO employees have made available a 10,000-square-foot hangar to store and dispense supplies – donated by the FBO’s customers, as well as the local Fort Lauderdale community – to numerous business aircraft operators that are flying relief missions.

“We’ve had at least 150 to 200 aircraft from around the country fly in since Hurricane Maria, from locations as far away as California, Denver and the Northeast,” said Jon Tonko, Banyan’s director of customer support. “For these hurricane relief flights, we are severely discounting our fuel prices and not charging ramp and other fees.”

people moving water bottles bundles on ramp

According to Tonko, the aircraft – ranging from Bombardier Global Express jets to Cessna Citations – get staged at Banyan (coordinated by PALS, AERObridge and other non-profit services), where they are filled with supplies such as water, food, medical supplies, baby necessities and more. From FXE, they fly primarily to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Croix. Initially, only large aircraft that did not need to refuel for their roundtrip were able to access the Caribbean.

loading water bottle cases into passenger compartment

In addition to supplies, business aircraft also flew medical personnel and first responders to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

To assist residents of the Florida Keys with the severe damage caused by Hurricane Irma, Tonko said that about three flights daily have been operating from Banyan to Key West since the hurricane blew through, transporting 30 to 50 volunteers each day to help with cleanup and rebuilding. The Samaritan’s Purse relief organization is operating these flights out of Banyan’s facilities, which include transporting 50 people to Key West each morning.