Oct. 31, 2018

In the hours following a natural disaster, business aircraft often provide a vital lifeline for delivering critical supplies to devastated areas cut off from ground transportation by floodwaters and storm damage. Recently, a father-and-son pilot team helped Florida panhandle residents in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“Most residents along the panhandle didn’t evacuate, as Michael was a Category 2 storm when they went to bed Oct. 9, but when they woke up it had grown to Category 4,” said Robert Lucas, who with his father, Paul, helped organize flights carrying supplies to those in storm-stricken communities as part of a coordinated effort organized through the Indian River Veterans Council.

“We had a meeting the afternoon the storm made landfall, got on the phones and immediately had a commitment for 14,000 MREs (meals ready-to-eat) from the Palm Beach area,” Robert continued. “We utilized Facebook to draw these efforts together and coordinated two drop-off locations at craft breweries that had the warehouse space we needed.”

Paul loaded up as many MREs, diapers and pet food as his Piper Aztec piston twin could carry, and along with three other planes flew the most critically-needed goods to Marianna, FL. Trucks delivered bulk loads of heavier supplies such as water and canned goods once roads were reopened.

Robert emphasized the importance of coordinating relief efforts early, and identifying the exact resources needed. “No matter the size of our aircraft, most of us in aviation will quickly jump in and help when help is needed,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t help everybody, but with a specific point-of-contact we knew exactly what was needed, and who needed it most.”