Flashback: Business Aviation Brings Help and Comfort to Katrina Victims

 - August 2, 2022, 8:06 AM

With AIN Media Group's Aviation International News and its predecessor Aviation Convention News celebrating the company's 50th year of continuous publication this year, AIN’s editorial staff is going back through the archives each month to bring readers some interesting events that were covered over the past half-century.

REWIND (October 2005): When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the business aviation community swung into action to help those affected by the natural disaster. Not long after the hurricane made landfall on the morning of August 29, many aircraft operators called the Red Cross and offered to airlift in supplies or do humanitarian transports. Their offers were rebuffed; instead the relief agency simply asked for donations.

Wanting to go beyond merely donating money, this close-knit community was determined to use its resources—aircraft or otherwise—to help those affected by the hurricane. Central to this effort was NBAA’s Air Mail list server, which became an important communications tool for facilitating airlift efforts.

The first messages offering help came on September 1, with several people opening their homes to evacuees. Within several hours members began asking how they could use their business aircraft to fly in supplies or evacuate refugees from the hardest-hit areas in Louisiana and Mississippi.

FAST FORWARD: One of the most destructive storms to strike the U.S., Category 5 Katrina claimed some 1,800 lives and caused more than $125 billion in damage. New Orleans was hit hard from the hurricane, with 80 percent of the city inundated by water due to the failures in its levee system. Widespread disruptions to transportation and communications were also seen throughout the region at the time.

New Orleans Lakefront Airport, on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain, suffered massive damage, which—in addition to the flooding to the city proper—caused the relocation of NBAA’s annual convention that had been scheduled to take place there in October. The organization pushed back the event by one month and rescheduled it in Orlando. New Orleans has not hosted the annual convention since.