Many of you know that Bill and Colleen Whiteford are pilots with the privilege of owning their own plane. With this privilege comes responsibilities and one of those responsibilities spoke to the owners a few weeks ago. “We were in church talking about the devastation of the recent hurricanes and felt called to use our gifts as a helping hand to those in need”. Only a few weeks earlier Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and in that process a couple of pilots got together to see if they could pull together a group of pilots to help areas quickly as the roads and normal transportation was shut down. Operation Airdrop was born and so far has moved many millions of pounds of supplies to disaster stricken areas.
Bill had the opportunity to fly to Florida after hurricane Irma struck and spend three days flying 20 hours to ferry supplies from diapers, toiletry items, hot meals, MRE’s (meals ready to eat), baby formula, water, and much more. Our plane was able to transport 1,000 lbs. of much needed supplies within an hours’ notice to most of the airports in the Florida Gulf coast and Key West areas. Each day started around 8:30 with a full load to one of the shuttle areas mid-way down the state and finished by flying back into Tallahassee after 9 PM. An average of 6-7 flights were flown each day.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how many pilots from all over the country came together to support their fellow man in this great humanitarian need. Most places had lost power and some still did not have power when we landed. It is hard to describe the feelings that one has when people you do not know and probably never will see again come up to you with tears in their eyes thanking you for your efforts to help. It is something I will always carry with me for sure.
We were based out of Tallahassee and flew missions down the gulf coast of Florida as well as out to the Keys. I have attached a few photos showing the damage as well as the type of loads we were carrying. A few pictures show our plane with a few others in front of Key West as well as Tallahassee International. Some planes were damaged in the storm and those shown were from wind damage and not crashes. Florida flying has its own hazards from trying to get heavy loads up with hotter thinner air, to thunderstorms and open water flying over to the Keys and Gulf Coast. Some of the pictures include a video of flying back to Tallahassee at dusk meandering between thunderstorms. You can see flooded areas from Tampa south to Homestead where there was enough water you could ride an airboat all the way down as well.
Please visit Operation Airdrop’s Facebook Page and if inclined send them a few bucks for disaster relief. We have to be ready for future disasters like this one.