Page 29 - Nov 19 TNT
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 On September 1, 2019, Catego- company transformed from carrying visible. Treasure Cay was heavily hit, ry 5 Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands chain of the Bahamas with a predicted path northwest over Grand Bahama. With winds up to 220 mph and rainfall measured in feet, not inches, it was forecasted to be a cata- strophic weather event, and unfortu- nately, the forecasters were correct. I have visited the Abaco Islands sev- eral times, including a recent stay just three months earlier on Elbow Cay. After more than 50 trips to the Caribbean, with many including a stay in the Bahamas, I have seen the impact of previous hur- ricanes on the area. But what I was about to view during relief missions following Hurricane Dorian was worse. The Game Plan In preparation for Hurricane Dorian’s impact, many aid organizations quickly sprung to action. My first call for help came from a longtime friend from the Haiti earthquake relief efforts, Sam Bloch, now with World Central Kitchen ( I f lew over 120 hours in support of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and saw firsthand the impact of general aviation in providing critical disaster relief support. At the time of Sam’s call, Dorian had not yet made landfall and he was in Nassau looking for a helicopter to do an aerial assessment after the hurricane hit. Other groups, including aviation-affil- iated organizations such as AERObridge, PALS and FBOs in the Southeast, were making contingency plans with the ap- proaching storm. The FBOs, also in the path of Dorian, were nonetheless mak- ing initial plans to help others. I worked extensively with Banyan Air Service at Fort Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) on previous relief efforts, and they were again offering assistance with the distri- bution of donated supplies and pilot sup- port along with Yelvington Jet Aviation in Daytona Beach (KDAB) and others. Air Unlimited, a Part 135 opera- tor in Sanford (KSFB), has an estab- lished business flying daily flights to Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay in the Abacos. Led by founders Mark Neubauer and Chick Gregg, they promptly started collecting supplies and preparing their King Air 200s for relief flights. The  passengers on vacation to volunteering their airplanes to help those on the same islands who were such a large part of their life. Donated supplies began ar- riving at their hangar as the hurricane made landfall, and later, Air Unlimited crews conducted some of the first flights to Marsh Harbour. Surveying the Damage The devastation they saw was exten- sive. Entire communities were damaged and important infrastructure destroyed. Thankfully, the new power plant on Abaco was operational, however, there were no transmission lines and towers left to distribute the electricity. The aircraft owner association forums immediately became virtual war rooms, with owners communicating on how and where they could help. A Facebook group was also created to support communica- tions. Owners with aircraft from small single-engine piston airplanes to large corporate jets and airlines offered their assistance. Rotorcraft were especially important with a storm surge more than 20 feet over parts of the island. For some airports, helicopters became the only option. The runway at Treasure Cay (MYAT) initially had a river of seawa- ter several feet deep that inundated the airport. On the southern tip of Abaco, Sandy Point (MYAS) appeared to be usable. And as the water receded, the damage to the other airports became with all the buildings, including the ga- rage for the airport firetruck, severely damaged. Just to the southeast, at the Marsh Harbour airport (MYAM), the main terminal was damaged as well as hangars. The FBO and Customs building was in usable condition and provided some shelter. The airports on Grand Bahama were similarly hit hard. The storm also impacted communica- tion: cellular, landline and ATC, includ- ing radar. With the importance of aircraft search, rescue, and relief efforts, the U.S. Navy placed an AWACS aircraft in orbit to assist in communications. Aircraft, both civilian and military, quickly saturated the area. While essential, the same air- craft delivering supplies and person- nel created a potential safety issue. The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) requested a TFR over the affected area in an at- tempt to control traffic. Pilots looking to fly into the area needed to obtain permission from NEMA, which was also overwhelmed with responding to the di- saster. While the TFR decreased the flow of relief aircraft and supplies, it did have a positive impact on airspace congestion. With only a few viable landing facilities and little to no airport infrastructure in place, it made sense. Joining the Effort I f lew my Eclipse 500 from San Diego to Florida and helped Air Unlimited for    Due to safety concerns, a TFR was issued over the affected area of the Bahamas. Pilots flying in were required to obtain permission from NEMA. Jet Journal November 2019 / TWIN & TURBINE • 27 

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