Oct. 6, 2022

A Dallas-based charity, Operation Airdrop, is providing relief efforts on Florida’s hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, flying supplies to communities where roads are impassable.

Robert Johnson, a pilot with more than three decades’ flying experience, is one of the volunteers who deployed from Kissimmee Gateway Airport (ISM) to Fort Myers and Pine Island in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Pine Island, the largest island off the Gulf Coast, saw its bridge to the mainland collapse, and Operation Airdrop flew in supplies. A temporary bridge has been established, and the mission wrapped up earlier this week.

“We were able to get into contact with a volunteer relief worker on Pine Island and started flying much needed supplies to them,” said Johnson. “We’ve delivered over 15,000 pounds of cargo. People on the ground are telling us what they need. Food, water, diapers, baby formula, wipes. Also batteries and specialty items like generator oil that they don’t have access to.”

Operation AirdropOff the island’s southern end, the storm destroyed dozens of homes.

Operation Airdrop, which uses general aviation to help reach people in disasters and specializes in post-hurricane flooding recovery, was founded in response to Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm which devastated parts of Texas in 2017. The group arranges to fly in supplies when ground vehicles can’t reach communities.

Hurricane Ian left thousands of people in Florida without power after slamming into the west coast last week. Many people were made homeless.

Operation AirdropJohnson, a board member of Operation Airdrop, said 15 planes were used in the relief effort, including a Kodiak, Caravan, and a King Air. “We deploy about once a year,” he said. “Using the benefit of light aircraft, we can deploy quickly, and get into areas that are cut off such as Pine Island.”

In Florida, Operation Airdrop partnered with Operation BBQ Relief, flying 5,000 meals at a time from Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), which is located between Sarasota and Fort Myers. Operation Airdrop delivered more than 10,000 meals to communities in need.

Learn how you can help Operation Airdrop.