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Operation Airdrop Volunteer Pilots and Staff Support Hurricane Victims

200+ Pilots Airlift Relief Supplies to Hurricane Harvey Victims

DC-3 Airlifts Critical Supplies
OAD Pilots & volunteers of load relief supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims

“Ready to go, have cleared my schedule for WED and beyond. Twin Cessna 414. Bringing 300 lbs of diapers with me.” Operation Airdrop Pilot

Imagine having 4 feet of flood waters receding from your home. Now that the storm is over you have to start assessing the damage and cleaning up, but you can’t go to Target or Wal Mart to get your supplies. They were hit by the floods too, just about every store was. And if you have a baby the Red Cross doesn’t have diapers to give to you. Enter Operation Airdrop Hurricane Harvey!

Operation Airdrop

Operation Airdrop (OAD) started just in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as an effort by two pilots, we’d like to call them fellow Avgeeks, John Clay Wolfe and Doug Jackson. Wolfe is a Dallas metro area iheart radio personality and Jackson are friends who both felt the need to do something to help these people.

Well, you’re a pilot and I’m a pilot, why don’t we fly some stuff down?’ I’ve got this radio network, we ought to use it for some good. What if we organized a bunch of pilots and mimic that Cajun Navy thing, but do it with airplanes?” Credit: Flying Magazine They promoted their efforts on the radio and facebook to the General Aviation community and the response has been overwhelming.  Fans at the Thunder over Michigan Airshow were asked to help fill two C-47s with over 20,000 pounds of relief supplies.

Operation Airdrop pilots are bringing new meaning to the phrase “weekend warrior.” OAD pilots have volunteered their time, flying skills and aircraft to generate a massive relief effort. In the tradition of the cajun navy a group of over 200 civilian pilots have joined together forming a massive coordinated relief effort. To date Operation Airdrop has completed over 400 flights, delivering over 250,000 pounds of supplies in difficult to reach areas of hurricane stricken South Texas. Map by Joe Vaeth

Operation Airdrop Expanding Reach

Operation Airdrop started by using aircraft to bring immediate short-term relief to hardest hit areas after Harvey in Texas by targeting isolated areas with small airports along the Texas Gulf Coast. Since that time OAD has expanded its mission to deliver assistance to Florida and Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes Irma & Maria.  To accomplish this critical feat OAD is actively developing strategic relationships with the military, government leaders, and other relief organizations such as the Texas Baptist Men, Salvation Army, Texas Navy & Cajun Air Force. The FAA has also been very cooperative in this effort. OAD pilots even have their own sqawk code.

Operation Airdrop is making a tremendous difference in the lives of families one aircraft load at a time. One of the real strengths of this organization has been the ability to get relief into the hands of people that need it quickly. OAD has established a supply chain and places for donations to dropped, distributed & received. Supplies are reaching folks in need within 30 minutes after landing. Here is a listing some of the items being delivered:
Baby Formula
Cleaning Supplies
N95 dust masks
Maxi pads
Bottled Water
Dog food, Cat Food
Paper Towels & TP
Sleeping Bags
LED Lanterns
Canned Foods
Athletic apparel and shirts from the Dallas Cowboys
Papa Johns Pizza to relief workers and first responders.

Fleet of aircraft at KCXO

One account from KCXO, Conroe, TX stated, “ Dozens of pilots landed their planes in the airport and personnel from The Salvation Army helped unload pounds of diapers and baby materials, toiletries and sleeping bags to distribute to storm victims.” OAD also had help from some extra muscle on the ramp at KBMT, Beaumont Municipal Airport from the Army and Air Force troops working there.

Air Force & Army troops support OAD on the ramp at KBMT

Pilots Wanted

This effort is being sustained by volunteer pilots. The organization’s facebook page and website have a link for pilots and or aircraft owners to fill out a form and a member of the operations team will make immediate contact. OAD pilots have been flying in supplies from all over the U.S. and Mexico. And they have been flying in a myriad of aircraft including everything from Cessna 152s, Pilatus PC-12’s to Beechjets and the venerable DC-3. The group’s heavy lifter is a WWII era DC-3 cargo aircraft painted with invasion stripes and still serving in a critical role.

The team Operation Airdrop assembled has put a lot of work into building a seamless operation. Pilots fly into coordinated donation centers/depots to load up. There they get a weather briefing and coordinated instructions for flying into the Houston TFR. The aircraft are fueled and sent on their way. Upon landing at the relief field the aircraft is downloaded by the waiting volunteers. Supplies are distributed. Then the aircraft is re-fueled for its next run.

Relief Airfields served by OAD:
KCXO – Conroe, TX – Lone Star Executive
KPKV – Port Lavaca, TX – Calhoun Air Center
KIWS – Houston, TX – West Houston Airport
KI95 – Kenton, TX – Hardin County Airport/Hawthorne Field
KBMT – Beaumont, TX – Beaumont Municipal Airport
KILE – Houston, TX – Ellington Airport
KBYY – Bay City, TX – Bay City Regional Airport
KRKP – Rockport, TX – Aransas County Airport
KCRP – Corpus Christi, TX – Corpus Christi International Airport
KRAS – Port Aransas, TX – Mustang Beach
KILE – Kileen, TX – Skylark Field – Supply Depot
KDTO – Denton, TX – Operations Center

Operations Center

Conducting a relief operation to austere airfields in a storm devastated environment is a complex problem. Supplies need to be coordinated, pilots need to be taksed and briefed and most importantly the aerial armada needs fuel to conduct its runs. The OAD operations center has conducted over 400 flights now. Wolfe describes it as follows:

“OAD has a war-room style operations center located in KDTO (Denton, TX) manned by a software pro, full time controller, airline logistics expert and other pilots as mission control. These vols are scheduling freight, assessing needs, updating FAA clearance codes, managing aircraft weight loading specs, fuel burn, fuel replenishment locations and of course constant weather updates to our air-force of volunteers. An enormous part of the OAD’s sudden success is the streamline logistics, and feedback to our pilots in real time. When pilots land they know where to drop, where to fuel, and no one goes home until every flight is accounted for safe and sound, tracking each plan online much like government controlled operations.”

Impact Beyond Texas

The impact Operation Airdrop has been able to deliver has already been recognized at the highest levels of government as an, “untapped strategic national resource.” It’s hard to believe what this group of volunteer aviators and support personnel have accomplished in a matter of days.

Operation Airdrop has now turned its resources toward Florida and Puerto Rico and is coordinating a continuing volunteer pilot relief effort.  Radio host John Clay & founder of Operation Airdrop shared that Saturday morning OAD hosted an on air relief pitch with Pudge Rodriguez.  Pudge is Puerto Rican and a retired major league baseball catcher who played for the Texas Rangers and the Florida Marlins winning the World Series in 2003.  Clay said, “We had Pudge on the show,” asking for donations, “and man they came in!”  The donated supplies included 16, 600kW generators for Puerto Rico.

You can follow & offer your support to Operation Airdrop on facebook

or at their website

Additional Sources:

Flying Magazine

PR Newswire

Conroe – Community Impact Page

Click on Detroit

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Joe Vaeth

Written by Joe Vaeth

Joe Vaeth is a life-long fan of all things aviation. Currently an airline pilot, his background includes over 10 years of flying C-130s for the U.S. Air Force and glider flying along the front range of the Colorado Rockies. He resides in Southern California with his wife and three children and has recently taken up cider brewing. He also enjoys, bike riding, kite flying & aerial photography.

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