Help Welcome, But Make Sure It's Helping
The president of the largest benefit flying organization in the U.S. says help is welcome from private aircraft owners in the enormous relief efforts in Texas and Florida but it needs guidance and direction. Rol Murrow, who leads the Air Care Alliance, said ad hoc volunteer pilots often get in the way, sometimes cause extra work and can also create safety issues in their zeal to pitch in. “What we always recommend is that volunteer pilots work through established organizations,” Murrow told AVweb in a podcast interview. There are more than 70 organizations that muster the tremendous potential of private aviation for good and some will take qualified newcomers in times of crisis.
Those who would love to help but don’t know how are best to stay away for now but consider joining one of the organizations and getting the training and direction to actually make a difference when crises arise. Murrow said there is nothing more gratifying than delivering vitally needed supplies to those who really need them and materially improving their situation. On the other hand, well-meaning but misguided people can create serious issues. The FAA was recently poised to shut down volunteer pilot operations in one crisis area because so many uninvited helpers showed up it created safety concerns at that airport. Volunteer organizations intervened and talked them out of it, Murrow said. In an earlier example, emergency workers had to figure out what to do with hundreds of stuffed animals that “were not needed.”
Murrow also had a word of caution for dealing with well-meaning organizations who offer gas money or other compensation for volunteer pilots. The regs are really clear and the FAA isn't shy about enforcing them and many pilots have faced sanctions for violations of those regs even in times of crisis, he said. It's another good reason for channeling goodwill through organizations who specialize in it.