Amazing aid effort
21 / 01 / 2010
THE air cargo industry has responded with lightning speed, great ingenuity and huge generosity following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti at 16.53 local time on 12 January.Within an hour of the disaster striking the capital Port-au-Prince, charter broker emergency response plans leapt into action. UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon called the situation “one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades”.Despite many of Europe’s airports being snowbound, Air Charter Service immediately acquired aircraft to transport vital search and rescue teams and their equipment to the damaged international airport in Haiti.With the control tower out of action, the experience of the charter brokers and the skill of the air crew enabled flights to start arriving within hours.Elsewhere, Chapman Freeborn, Air Partner and others have continued working around the clock to secure aircraft to fly vital supplies to the stricken country. Support in the form of securing flight permits and fuel provisions was arranged for Chapman Freeborn charters, and other airlines seeking to fly aid, by 24-hour subsidiary Paragon Global Flight Support.
A week after the earthquake, the country’s major port was still inoperable, meaning that aviation and the air cargo industry was the sole form of distributing aid and supplies to the country.Thousands of tonnes of supplies have been transported by airlines, with many of the services being provided at cost.British Airways has provided both Boeing 747 passenger and 747-400F flights, carrying aid from four major charities, at its own expense.Iberia, in collaboration with Hand-to-Hand – a charitable NGO set up by its own employees – has distributed hundreds of tonnes of aid to neighbouring Santa Domingo.Virgin Atlantic is flying much needed medical personnel, aid workers and vital equipment to the region and Lufthansa immediately offered one of its MD-11Fs for the distribution of aid. “As a globally active group, we feel duty bound to help relieve the immeasurable suffering of the victims of Haiti,” said Lufthansa chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber.Other airlines have been equally proactive. Maximus Air Cargo provided an Il-76, allowing the Austrian Red Cross to deliver some 25 tonnes of vital aid.Freight forwarders have been equally generous in their response. On behalf of the ‘Wings of Help’ organisation DB Schenker has organised the delivery of hundreds of tonnes of supplies. Vital medical supplies and powdered milk have been prepared for shipment by young Schenker employees working throughout the night on a voluntary basis.One sour note is that a charter broker reported one Middle Eastern airline was profiteering by asking for US$850,000 for one charter flight.However, overall the air cargo industry has proved its worth and working day and night saved numerous lives.You should all be very proud of yourselves.