March 25, 2019
Devastating rains across much of Nebraska and Iowa last weekend left residents of Fremont, NE – a community of 26,000 people approximately 40 miles northeast of the state capital of Lincoln – cut off from surrounding areas by severe flooding that effectively turned the city into an island.
“We started getting calls Saturday from people in Fremont asking for charter rates, so they could fly out and reach their medical appointments, jobs and families,” said John Geary, operations director for NBAA member Silverhawk Aviation at Lincoln Airport (LNK). “However, Nebraskans stick together in times of crisis and we decided to fly as many of them as we could for free.”
A Facebook post about the free flights was shared more than 2,600 times and drew close to 1,000 phone calls. Over the next three days, the company utilized a pair of Beechcraft King Air 90 turboprop aircraft to operate more than 25 flights between Fremont Municipal Airport (FET) and the cities of Lincoln and Omaha, each an approximately 20-minute hop away.
Silverhawk, which maintains a fleet of aircraft for fractional ownership and charter use, also utilized one of its Cessna Citation V business jets to fly a media team over flooded regions, and a Cirrus SR22 piston single to carry an IT disaster relief team to affected clients. Any available space on the planes was filled with supplies including pet food, baby formula, diapers and water for stranded residents.
The company transported more than 140 passengers free-of-charge before the relief effort wound down as waters from the nearby Platte River receded, and flood-damaged roads gradually reopened. The company joined with dozens of individual pilots who together flew an estimated 1,000 people out of Fremont, according to local media.
For Geary, who once flew air ambulances across the Cornhusker State, the situation reaffirmed the community’s sense of giving and camaraderie during trying times.
“It was truly amazing to see how everyone came together,” he said. “People gave up their seats on earlier flights for those with more critical needs. Others came to the airport to donate supplies and leave pizzas for our pilots.”