When the earthquake in Haiti first struck about two weeks ago, cool heads were advising general aviation pilots to stay home and send money. This seemed to make sense at the time, when relief flights were stacked up over the single runway at Port au Prince, and general confusion ruled.
But a couple of days ago, a Massachusetts pilot, Scott Martin, turned up on YouTube with a different message. "This is an urgent request for pilots to come down with their planes to Santiago, in the Dominican Republic," he said. "The U.S. relief effort is not in touch with the reality on the ground."
He asked pilots to just get in their airplanes and fly to Fort Lauderdale Executive (FXE) and make their way to the D.R. from there, where they could load their airplanes with urgently needed medical supplies and food to deliver to outlying airfields in Haiti. I called Rol Murrow, the president of the Air Care Alliance, for his take on all this. "There are so many different perspectives," he said. Some folks are adamant that private pilots need to stay out of the way of the professionals, and if they really want to help, send money.
Murrow himself says he has a more "middling attitude," and there are a lot of factors to consider -- the capability of the airplane and the pilot primary among them. He believes there is an urgent need for a lot of additional GA help in the area, and will be for a long time to come. He suggested that any pilots who want to help should first make a connection with a relief group on the ground or work through an established volunteer pilot organization -- but he added that many of those groups may not have the manpower available to coordinate the details necessary to take advantage of those offers.
So should you answer Scott Martin's call to action, and fly to FXE? Or stay home and out of the way? I'm curious to see what AVweb readers think.