In His Own Words: One Katrina Aid Pilot…

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Smaller Communities Desperately Need Hurricane Help

GA is being called upon to help thousands of people who seem forgotten in the hurricane relief effort. Dozens of small communities in the path of Hurricane Katrina have been virtually cut off for a week. "One of our planes was diverted to Poplarville, Miss., yesterday and it's a city of 40,000 people that's had no water and no food for a week," said Doug Towns, a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight Georgia. "The sheriff there said people are dying every day." Angel Flight was planning to send three aircraft packed with essential supplies to Poplarville on Sunday but there are undoubtedly numerous other smaller communities in the same situation. Thomas Marino, a volunteer coordinator for GA efforts in Baton Rouge, told AVweb that pilots who want to help should just pick an airport, load up their plane with food, water, and medical and baby supplies and go there. "Chances are they're going to be welcomed with open arms," Marino told AVweb. (Your mileage may vary -- there may be very little ground support, or fuel. Call ahead.) "I think we could really do some good there." Of course, pilots must respect the TFRs that are restricting GA operations in many areas but Marino said there are plenty of hard-hit areas not under the TFRs. Towns told AVweb he flew a mission into Baton Rouge from Atlanta on Saturday and he was glad that he had a strapping university basketball player along for the ride. "It is a little chaotic. There's very little ground support," he said. Towns said he and his passenger had to unload their Piper Meridian and he said there's concern that supplies arriving in Baton Rouge are not getting where they are needed. Towns flew the big turboprop back to Atlanta empty while thousands of refugees are looking for a lift out of the area. He said the Red Cross is refusing to allow anyone to leave on the volunteer aircraft unless they can prove they have a place to stay at the other end.