May 21, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a crippling effect across the Navajo Nation that extends across northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico, and which recently surpassed New York and New Jersey for the highest infection rate in the country. Business aviation pilot Dennis Combs recently delivered some critically needed supplies to help in their fight against the pandemic.
When the novel coronavirus first took hold across the country in March, Combs partnered with Phoenix, AZ-based My360Project, a mission organization that produces shoes for children in developing countries. With international travel restrictions hindering those efforts at the moment, the group turned to producing masks instead.
Combs initially purchased a large supply of American flag-printed protective face coverings for customers at his auto dealerships in Nampa and Boise, or anyone who needed one. “I gave them away free to veterans, and to anyone else with a canned food donation,” he explained. “But lots of other people need them, too.”
When he learned of the Navajo Nation’s plight, Combs contacted My360Project organizer Pastor Darryl Carnley and Pastor Landon Merrill of Bridge Church with a new mission. Carnley soon had 1,000 masks ready, assembled from materials donated by Idaho-based AA Sealcoat, and Merrill arranged for their delivery to the Navajo Nation.
On May 14, Combs flew his Eclipse 500 very light jet to Scottsdale, AZ from his home base in Caldwell, ID to retrieve the masks. He and Carnley then flew to Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) to meet with personnel able to deliver the masks on the nation. “They’re really getting hit hard up there,” Combs said. “The area has been so devastated by the virus they wouldn’t even let us leave the airport.”
“This mission came together with a lot of people working together,” Carnley added in a short video Combs posted to Facebook from the ramp at FLG. “If everybody does something small, we’ll have a lot.”
Combs has flown dozens of charitable missions since first acquiring a Cirrus SR22 in 2003, ranging from transporting cancer-stricken children for treatment to organizing a massive relief effort to deliver coats to remote Alaskan communities. Other relief missions over the years have taken him from South America to Cuba to Puerto Rico.
“I tend to drop everything when my phone rings,” Combs said. “If there’s a way for me to help, I want to help.”