Relief efforts continue in Haiti

 - March 30, 2010, 8:02 AM

More than two months after the Haiti earthquake, business aviation’s mercy flights continue but on a much smaller scale. In the first 60 days after the temblor, donated business aircraft made more than 700 flights into and around the region, transporting approximately 3,700 passengers and delivering 1.35 million pounds of supplies, according to the industry disaster response charity Corporate Aviation Responding in Emergencies (Care).

Robin Eissler, the organization’s vice president, said it is still running two or three flights a day, mainly performing evacuations of seriously injured patients and rotations of medical personnel. The airstrip at Jacmel, near the heavily hit area outside Port-au-Prince, was closed as a temporary international airport on March 14, requiring foreign aid flights once again to land first at either Port-Au-Prince or Cap Haitian. As a result, Care–which had amassed a vast stockpile of supplies in
Santiago in the Dominican Republic–has found it is now more efficient to deliver the materials to the devastated area by truck, reducing the number of aircraft needed.

Limited Involvement

While Care’s aid effort is winding down, it continues to receive offers of aircraft use. “Our long-term plan is to continue to provide loose coordination for aircraft operators who want to go down and help with our contacts on the ground,” said Eissler. “I don’t think we will have a ‘closing date,’ but we won’t be involved as actively.”

When a massive earthquake rocked Chile a little more than a month later, the business aviation response was not as intense, in large part because of geography, according to Eissler. “It’s about a two-day trip down to Chile even in a large-cabin airplane by the time you factor in duty time, so we were just too far away,” she said. The group did send a team of first responders to the area shortly after the disaster, but found that they were not as needed as they were in Haiti. While the Chilean earthquake was of a greater magnitude than Haiti’s, it did not strike a major city and caused far fewer injuries, which the Chilean authorities were much better equipped to handle.    

See AIN’s sister publication Business Jet Traveler, April/May 2010, for more coverage.