Although the desperate situation in New Orleans has garnered most of the media attention, Hurricane Katrina cut a swath of destruction far to the north of the Gulf Coast.
A so-far unknown number of corporate flight departments dispatched teams to support their affected colleagues. One director of aviation, who did not want to be identified, related how his airplanes and helicopters were dispatched to central Mississippi and Alabama, in an effort to help employees who in many cases had been left with nothing. It took until September 8, he told AIN, for the company to locate all of its employees.
“We have a number of offices and a manufacturing facility in the area, and a responsibility for more than 1,000 employees and family members. When this thing happened, there was a delay of several days before we really knew what was going on. No phones, no -mails, nothing. Once we managed to make contact, we knew that hundreds of our people had been affected and, although thankfully none had lost their lives (although we heard later that some had family members who had), many had lost everything else.”
Over the weekend, a group of senior management flew down in a Gulfstream while helicopters set out from the base in North Carolina. Before heading out to individual facilities, they spent a few thousand dollars on perishable goods and gathered cash to help them buy more. Management arranged ground transportation and went out searching for employees to help. Once the helicopters arrived, that made the job a lot more efficient.
The director of aviation AIN interviewed said, “We’re not concerned about doing business for now. We are more concerned about making sure that our people have a roof over their heads. Once electricity had been restored to one facility, it opened its doors to let dispossessed employees stay there.
“Our S-76 will be down there for another week: we’re currently sorting out relief crews. The biggest problem for us has been finding ground transportation and accommodation for them. I think they’ve put in a magnificent effort, one that disproves some claims that corporate operators somehow did not respond to the situation out there. I know lots of them that were–at least one other on our airfield–they just didn’t make a big deal about it.”