Despite the fact that there are fewer bizav aircraft based in all of Asia than in the Los Angeles area, business aviation worldwide has flown to the aid of the countries devastated by the December earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
Joan Sullivan Garrett, chairman and CEO of Tempe, Ariz.-based MedAire, told AIN that her company has been involved in disaster relief in the area since the beginning. “For example, Trust Aviation, one of our clients, offered its Challenger 604 to deliver medical supplies from MedAire to the region.”
Charles “Park” Adams, director of operations for Trust Aviation, received from MedAire’s MedSpace pharmaceutical and equipment distribution center in Phoenix a shipment containing 250 pounds of antibiotics, valued at approximately $13,000, plus a large supply of cardiac medications, local anesthetics, topical anesthetics, pain medications, needles, syringes and other medical equipment.
Garrett said MedAire’s assistance ranges from medical advice and situational updates to locating missing people, repatriation of remains and medical evacuations. “Within the first 24 hours of the disaster we deployed a medical team to Phuket, Thailand,” she said. “The team immediately set out assisting local medical facilities, facilitating information to and from the region and working local evacuation logistics.”
Dr. Cesar Vargas, a physician for MedAire’s Global Doctor program, which has eight clinics in Asian countries including Thailand and Indonesia, is in Phuket, and he said the situation is “nothing short of a holocaust.” Vargas indicated that the greatest concern for many of the injuries centered around infections rather than the injuries themselves.
“We organized all available resources to assist those affected by this tragedy,” Garrett said. “We’ve managed everything from complex evacuations to telemedicine support to simply lending a little peace of mind. For example, one touching call came from a young woman who couldn’t reach her mother in Japan to let her know that she was OK. We were able to relay the message in her native language to a very anxious mother.”
International SOS, a medical and security assistance company, has 28 alarm centers around the world, with 17 of them located in the Pacific Rim. According to Kevin Morris, “More than 70 SOS staff, including more than 30 medical professionals, are working around the clock to render medical advice and assistance to clients ranging from locating missing people to handling evacuations and hospitalizations.
International SOS immediately established the “Northern Sumatra Relief Fund” and at press time had raised more than $100,000 from International SOS employees, clients and individuals. The donations will be used to buy medical equipment for Phuket, Banda Aceh, Medan and others of the hardest-hit regions around Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.
Morris said the company is using the fund to directly re-establish medical facilities and restock medical supplies. “It’s being administered by a committee of SOS employees,” he said.
Since the tsunami struck, International SOS has activated regional alarm centers in Singapore; Bangkok, Thailand; Jakarta, Indonesia; and New Delhi, India; and the company has dispatched medical teams to Medan and Banda Aceh, Sumatra; Phuket, Thailand; Krabi, Thailand; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and other remote areas. The agency’s teams are providing medical advice and assistance, performing evacuations, handling hospitalizations and providing firsthand feedback on the challenges facing the region.
According to Dr. Doug Quarry, an SOS medical director who is helping to coordinate efforts from Sydney, Australia, “With growing concerns about emerging health problems such as malaria and dysentery, and the injuries and long-term recovery that survivors face, medical equipment is one of the most serious needs in the region. The fund will help answer that need and not only address emergency supplies but also begin the process of rebuilding hospital infrastructure devastated during the disaster.”
EADS, the parent company of both Airbus and Eurocopter, immediately donated E1 million and will match employee contributions through a special account set up with the International Red Cross.
The group also deployed its air transportation capacities in and to the region to meet logistical requirements. It provided a fleet of Eurocopter helicopters to support the relief operation in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia and has made available a Beluga large-cargo aircraft.
Cessna has joined one of its Indonesian Caravan customers, PT ASI Pudjiastuti, in providing aid. According to a spokeswoman for the U.S. airframer, Susi Pudjiastuti took delivery of Indonesia’s first two privately operated Grand Caravans last year for her Indonesian fishing/seafood operation. Pudjiastuti is now using the new aircraft around the clock to fly needed supplies and medevac personnel from remote areas of Indonesia to aid in the tsunami disaster relief efforts. Cessna has teamed with Pudjiastuti by donating money for supplies.
To date, Cessna’s employees and the company have donated more than $20,000 to the relief effort. The money is being used for such things as medical supplies, water purification equipment, rice and milk. Much of the effort is being coordinated through Cessna’s Singapore sales office.
Textron, Cessna’s parent company, also announced it would donate up to $750,000 to assist with relief efforts. The donation includes an initial company contribution of $250,000 to the American Red Cross International Response Fund’s tsunami relief effort. The company also pledged to match as much as $250,000 of employee contributions.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to all who have been affected by this devastating tragedy,” said Lewis Campbell, Textron chairman, president and CEO. “Our employees have a long history of mobilizing to support their communities during times of crisis. As part of the global community, our greatest hope is that this contribution may touch the lives of those in need.”