Where We Began

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast. The widespread devastation made headlines on CNN and other major news networks. America watched and waited for the misery to subside and aid to be rendered. After several days of waiting, five individuals within business aviation began using their expertise to organize relief missions. Through a coordinated effort, we began dispatching relief missions and operating supply chains and realized the benefit of a collective response. Our Hurricane Katrina Operation included about 155 flights with approximately 1000 people and 250,000 lbs. of critical supplies.

During Operation Hurricane Katrina AERObridge:

Flew 26 TSA agents responsible for opening up the New Orleans airport to commercial aircraft, CDC personnel and evacuees of the disaster.

Utilized connections with the PRC to establish a supply chain to numerous shelter groups.

Focused on General Aviation airports in the disaster region that were cut off from road access.

Brought in life saving supplies until the roads were open and they had other sources of assistance.

After the aviation response was no longer critical and prudent, our group chose the name of Corporate Aviation Responding in Emergencies (C.A.R.E.), elected Marianne Stevenson as President and asked NBAA for it's support, should the group ever need to activate again. We resumed our professional aviation careers for more than five years before we needed to reactivate in order to respond to the needs in Haiti.

Operation Haiti

The earthquake that struck Haiti January 12, 2010 produced a unique situation where General Aviation was the solution, and we activated. C.A.R.E began making phone calls to coordinate missions the morning after the earthquake devastated Haiti. Within 48 hours the first flight arrived in the island nation.

Operation Haiti has involved more than 715 flights, 3800 passengers and more than 1,400,000 pounds of critical supplies.

Passengers have included medical personnel, relief workers, newly adopted children, injured patients and missionaries.

More than 125 aircraft have been activated for the program, flying more than $5,000,000 worth of flight hours.

Through relationships in the business aviation community, C.A.R.E established a complete supply chain from Fort Lauderdale and Santiago, Dominican Republic to some of the outlying areas around Haiti's capital city of Port Au Prince, including Jacmel, Leogane, Les Cayes, Pignon, Port de Paix and Jeremie.

We provided critical passenger and supply transportation in and out of Port Au Prince prior to the commercial airlines resuming their service.

Operation Japan

After the catastrophic Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, AERObridge assessed the manner in which it's support of the victims would be appropriate and relevant. Initially, we contacted NBAA and NATA to advise them that AERObridge would help connect Business Aircraft that were flying to Japan for their own purposes with search and rescue personnel and critical supplies. Through relationships with other organizations, we were able to gain access to offers of donated commercial passenger flights and cargo flight. While coordinating a GV, we received intelligence that the Nuclear threat was at a level that we determined to be unsafe for American relief workers and adopted the formal position that AERObridge would not recommend or coordinate passenger flights to Japan. Although we wanted to support the victims of Japan, we recognized the difference of this disaster response, primarily, Japan is a First World Nation with the resources and infrastructure to respond quickly within it's own Nation. Additionally, the Japanese people are extremely capable to create supply chain networks and distribute to the people in need. Therefore, AERObridge determined the way to support the victims was to support several Japanese distribution groups with supplies that they requested. We created the Humanitarian Alliance, a group of Japan and US based non-profit organizations and corporations, which worked collaboratively to develop a supply chain that allowed three different avenues for individuals and corporations to contribute by donating dollars and requested supplies.

The three different avenues were:

  • 1) Cash Donations for Direct Bulk Purchase In Japan Through an International Wholesale Chain. 100% of donations purchased pallets of requested supplies, the donor received a invoice and a tax deductible letter.

  • 2) Product Donations in Tokyo which supplied three local Distribution Networks.

  • 3) Donations of select products (only those requested and able to clearcustoms) in the US that were transported via air cargo/ocean vessel from Los Angeles to Tokyo to link with the Local Distribution Network.

By far, the fastest, most responsive method for donation to best service the people of Japan was Cash Donations for Direct Bulk Purchase In Japan. This method of Direct Bulk Purchases streamlined the process of giving in many respects. The products they received were familiar and written in their own language, there were no customs or duty issues, the Japanese people had continued employment and the groups received them within 24 hours after the purchase was made and was therefore responsive to the changing dynamic needs of the people of Japan.

AERObridge Is Full Participant in FEMA's NLE11

AERObridge, in conjunction with FEMA, state and municipal authorities and various relief organizations took part in FEMA's National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 2011) over a four day period, May 16 – 20, 2011.

 National Level Exercise NLE 2011 was an operations-based exercise centered on the scenario of a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, encompassing four FEMA Regions (IV, V, VI and VII) and eight Central U.S. Earthquake States: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

NLE 2011 exercised initial incident response and recovery capabilities, tested and validated existing plans, policies and procedures including the New Madrid Catastrophic Plan which is currently under development.

 The disaster scenario was as follows: On 16 May 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed that a (simulated) catastrophic earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 had occurred on the southwestern segment of the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), with an epicenter at Marked Tree, AR. A second large earthquake with magnitude of 6.0 was simulated a short time later on the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone (WVSZ), with an epicenter near Mt. Carmel, IN.

The response objectives to these simulated disasters included Critical Resource Logistics and Distribution, Emergency Public Information and Warning, Mass Casualty Care, Communications, and Citizens Evacuation and Shelter-In-Place.

AERObridge activated a response to the simulated disaster and within a very short period of time achieved several critical initial goals. These included:

1. The rapid deployment of Eagles Wings Foundation teams to do aerial surveillance with several aircraft flying actual missions;

 2. Simulated 2 aircraft up immediately to survey airports which would have provided a complete survey of usable runways, taxiways, ramps, hangars and airport ingress/egress routes within 6 hours;

 3. Rapid response from a number of member-based organizations with Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association leading the way with a simulated outreach to their 400,000-plus membership for aircraft donation within 2 hours of the initial disaster notification;

 4. Established contact with FEMA Region VII's Volunteer Agency Liaison Jono Anzolone who communicated to us that the location for mass care and triage was designated as Springfield MO. This allowed us to rapidly decide that our round robin flights would be between Springfield and the 10 designated General Aviation airports we had targeted in the disaster zone. Also, he gave us the Points Of Contacts from the Red Cross who were coordinating operations at the mass care locations in Springfield;

 5. Coordinated with FAA at MCC to establish VFR procedures and explained mission parameters and objectives;

 6. AERObridge VP Aviation Relations Eric Whyte coordinated donated aircraft assets and their potential missions, directing simulated groups comprised of a variety of aircraft selected to meet each of the stated, perceived and potential capability levels necessary to facilitate the response efforts. The total number of GA aircraft "procured" for the effort maximized, but did not exceed, the capacities of the airfields within the response zone;

 7. The simulated airlift, based on the performance and capabilities of the 100 aircraft confirmed as available to fly (if this had been an actual event) between Springfield, MO and the 10 GA airfields surveyed and selected in disaster zone would have provided the ability to move, on a daily basis, 2,360 people in to as well as an equal number out of the disaster zone and 178,000 lbs. of supplies both into and out of the disaster area. This translates to 16,520 people and nearly 1.25 million pounds of supplies moved over the course of the first seven days of disaster response.

"NLE 2011 completely validated the lessons we've learned and the plans we've made since our first activation in response to the relief needs after Hurricane Katrina," AERObridge president Marianne Stevenson said. "We were able to assess, communicate and subsequently meet the adjunct transportation needs simulated during NLE 2011. While doing so we were also able to further underscore the utility and outright necessity of a vibrant, capable and varied general aviation fleet. We'd like to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the owners of the donated aircraft, as well as to AOPA staff and members who pitched in to make this exercise realistic and demonstrate that the goals we set are achievable in a real world scenario. We must thank the NBAA and its membership who also pledged their aircraft to the response efforts as well."

Hurricane Sandy

Our most recent major operation involved assessment of, and response to, the critical needs of those in the tri-state area of the Northeastern United States affected by “Superstorm” Sandy.

Prior to the storm’s arrival, AERObridge began contingency planning, contacting volunteers throughout the United States with access to aircraft and, if needed, ground vehicles, the latter of which became an important component of our response due to the overwhelming amounts of donated supplies. Once the storm struck and the magnitude of need became apparent, AERObridge formally activated its network of volunteers and calls went out through social media, email and telephone lists as well as established press contacts to call for specific donations (i.e., food, warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, batteries and flashlights, and bottled water, generator oil among them) as well as to identify and publicize pre-determined collection points for the public to bring their donations.

AERObridge activated to help coordinate General Aviation aircraft bringing in much needed supplies to the victims. During a two week period, over 95 aircraft flew to NJ and NY bringing in over 50,000 pounds of specifically requested donations. In combination with aircraft, we also coordinated trucking in over 70,000 pounds of vital donations. People sometimes ask how fast the donations get to the people and hope their efforts are worthwhile.

For instance, David H. flew a Baron G58 from Columbus, Ohio Tuesday into FRG filled with 105 Winter Jackets. They were picked up Wednesday morning and distributed before the storm. With smaller quantities, the donations are normally utilized more quickly. Michael M. flew a C210 filled with Cereal (provided by our friends at Feed the Children) from Elkhart IN to NJ. It was at the shelter in Tom's River the same day. 24 hours after a request for oil to run generators, our partner picked up oil.

 During the 2 week response, we utilized air and ground transportation methods as well as connecting our ground distributors with our partners at Americares to provide local access to blankets, batteries and flashlights that were already in CT. Whether people want to help by driving or flying or connecting resources, we provide a route for people to contribute in the way that felt right for them. Thanks to the leadership of Graeme S., Charley M, Jim M. and Greg S., the weekend AERObridge fly in (Nov. 9 - 11) was an immense success. Over 40 aircraft participated and demonstrated the professionalism and heart that is the very core of General Aviation. Everyone involved did an excellent job in a very busy environment with no safety issues.

Air Care Alliance allowed us, as members, to use their Compassion call sign which allowed priority handling by ATC. We are grateful to them. Also, Jeppesen donated their services. We especially appreciate our relationship with the Aviation Member Organizations, AOPA, EAA and NBAA who relayed to their membership our response efforts. US Airports in Rochester, NY and Million Air in Albany, NY were collection points for donations and Atlantic Aviation in Farmingdale, NY Ocean Air in Tom's River, NJ and the people at Eagle's Nest Airport in New Jersey were the locations we distributed through. The staff and management at all the airports and the FBO’s were professional and went the extra mile to make the reception of donations a smooth process.

AERObridge coordinated vehicle delivery of targeted supplies as well as aviation delivery. Initially aircraft flew from Rochester to NJ to deliver supplies. When asking for the FBO’s assistance as a collection site, we understood that the public would continue to give after the aircraft have departed so we arranged that all remaining donation and very heavy cargo would follow on via vehicle. We coordinated with Steve L. to drive his refurbished military transport truck all through the night so that the second wave of donations would be received while still critical. Alan Staats and his son Christopher drove a truck loaded with 7800 pounds of locally donated material all the way from Phoenix AZ, driving through the night to arrive in Barnegat, NJ when the need was still dire. The list of American heroes is too long to properly credit everyone who preformed amazing work.

A detailed local example of AERObridge’s Sandy response.

In the Phoenix metropolitan area, AERObridge reached out to the Arizona Business Aircraft Association president Ken Casey, who in turn contacted both members of his organization as well as the directors of his employer, Pinnacle Aviation, and explored the availability of both airlift capabilities as well as drop off and short term storage space for donated goods. Casey was able to obtain space on several eastbound Citation X aircraft as well as permission from both Pinnacle Aviation’s Scottsdale Airport offices and Cutter Aviation to store whatever was collected at their Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport facility. Once storage had been arranged, AERObridge’s media director Alan Staats contacted local television stations and newspapers, giving live television interviews with Casey (at Cutter Aviation) to inform their audiences of our efforts and ways the public could help. Those interviews, broadcast on local Fox, CBS and NBC affiliates and two independent stations were run for three days, on three broadcasts per day and resulted in nearly 30 minutes of total airtime, including three spots on Fox News’s national feed. Print media efforts garnered nearly 120 column inches with photos of loading efforts on the Cutter ramp, locally, as well.

The response, in the form of donations, to the media efforts quickly overwhelmed the space available on donated aircraft and during a teleconference it was decided that AERObridge and the AZBAA would seek donated ground transport. Casey and the AZBAA contacted representatives from one of their member companies, Penske Automotive Group, and initially asked for a truck at a reduced rate; Penske answered by donating the truck gratis. AZBAA, Pinnacle Aviation and Stratosphere Fuel Consortium, LLC then provided funding for fuel and Topher Property Development funded lodging and food expenses. Once the truck was loaded with 7,800 pounds of supplies, AERObridge director of media relations Alan Staats and his son Christopher drove the truck to Friendship Community Church in Barnegat, New Jersey in two and a half days.

In South Carolina, AERObridge Field Director of Emergency Services Greg Stidom put out the call to our volunteers (and neighbors) and within hours collection and dispersal efforts had begun and both aircraft and trucks were on their way north with supplies going to New York and New Jersey.

In terms of hard numbers it’s fairly easy to quantify what AERObridge’s volunteers accomplished during our response to Sandy; more than 120,000 pounds of blankets, clothing, food, water, medicine, batteries and equipment made its way to those in desperate need. Our efforts also taught the youth within the aviation community how they could actively help, rather than stand on the sidelines and watch everything unfold on television. Schools held collection drives, weighing and labeling each of the boxes for proper weight and balance. Little children as young as 6 helped their fathers load the planes, with full knowledge that, no matter how young or old a person might be they could be of tremendous help. What was more important, though, is what aviation helped to bring to the people affected by the hurricane: Hope. Hope and the knowledge that they weren’t alone, that people thousands of miles away dropped everything and took the problem to task.

AERObridge’s response to Superstorm Sandy was an example of what the aviation community in general and our volunteers in particular are capable of, something we’ve all proven time and again – In New Orleans, in Haiti, in Japan and in the Northeast. One of the most gratifying aspects of all this is that during our response each time we reached out and asked for something, whether it was from the owner of a 60 year old straight tailed Cessna 150 or this pilot of a brand new Citation X the answer was never “No.”