Hendrick Motorsports Aviation updates teammates on Haiti relief efforts
In a company bulletin dated January 18, 2010, the aviation department of Hendrick Motorsports passed along the following message to all employees. We thought we should share it with Jeff's fans to recognize the amazing efforts these folks are putting in to help out with the devastating circumstances in Haiti.
Following is an update on the efforts Hendrick Motorsports' aviation department is making in assisting with Haitian earthquake relief. The devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred in Haiti close to 5:00 pm on Tuesday, January 12.
In 2005, to support relief after Hurricane Katrina, Carolinas Medical Center dispatched their first-of-its-kind mobile hospital called MED-1 to New Orleans. Mr. Hendrick knew several of the hospital personnel supporting this effort, and learned their medical teams had a 16-hour one-way bus ride to get to their site near in Waveland, MS. Hendrick Motorsports began operating flights for MED-1 which allowed the personnel to cut their transit time to two hours.
With that in mind, Mr. Hendrick directed us to find a way Hendrick Motorsports could help with this Haitian disaster as well, and we began trying to connect with groups that needed to get into Haiti. We reached out to CMC and several other aid organizations. Most were just ramping up their response efforts. We read about a group called Missionary Flights International (MFI) that had made one of the first relief flights into Haiti-- the morning after the earthquake. MFI operates three DC-3 cargo planes, with limited passenger seating, so they said this capability we provided to move a lot of people was critical and well-timed.
Our aviation director, Dave Dudley, connected with MFI on Thursday. We learned they have been providing regular aviation missions to Haiti for decades, and are experienced and knowledgeable with that operating environment, as well as the processes used to plan and coordinate needs with the agencies controlling relief for this disaster. At the same time, Hendrick Motorsports received authorization from the FAA to operate aircraft in that area.
Volunteers from our aviation department stepped forward, including two complete flight crews and an aircraft mechanic. On Friday, they took the first Saab to MFI's base in Fort Pierce, FL, and received briefing information that afternoon from the MFI operations team. Our first relief flight departed Fort Pierce at 5:00 am on Saturday, carrying in 35 medical and search/rescue personnel and evacuating 27 US citizens. The second Saab arrived Saturday afternoon, and, since Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports has been operating two round‐trips per day, with the capability of transporting 180 total passengers.
The trips originate at MFI's hangar at St. Lucie County International Airport (Fort Pierce, FL). From there, a two hour flight is made to Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos, to top off the fuel tanks because there is no fuel available in Haiti. After departing Providenciales, the flights arrive in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, forty minutes later.
The return flight to Fort Pierce, FL, may include a fuel stop in Exuma, Bahamas, depending on wind conditions. Total round-trip time is approximately eight hours. Our crews are staying overnight in Fort Pierce and will return home at the end of this week when the surge passenger demand is expected to subside.
Fortunately, Missionary Flights' staff is well connected to aid organizations with the right personnel who need to go in, and to those who need to get people out. This has allowed our team there to focus on the flying. Those going in are primarily medical and search/rescue teams who were either already involved in prior, established relief efforts in Haiti, or have been specially trained for response to natural disasters. The evacuees are people who were in Haiti on missions when the earthquake struck, including many women and children, as well as church groups who had been there doing good works.
Just yesterday, one of our planes carried in a medical team of thirty‐three, including trauma surgeons, internists, anesthesiologists, nurses, and EMTs. Their equipment arrived in Haiti at the same time on one of MFI's cargo planes. By the time our first plane arrived back in Florida, the medical team was set up on a street in Port-au-Prince operating on injured people. They are going to be operating there around the clock.
Another passenger that flew in with us was a Haitian teacher who worked in an orphanage there. A few days before the earthquake struck, she'd taken her first vacation in fourteen years to visit her mother in Wilmington, N.C. Of the fifty orphans she served there, only one was still alive after their building crumbled, and she was returning to help.
On one of the return flights yesterday was a youth group that had gone to Haiti before the earthquake on a mission trip from their US church. They'd been stranded, and reported there was no means for them to get out since all commercial air service is cancelled. MFI arranged for them to be on one of our planes. A 17-year-old high school student among them said since the earthquake hit she'd helped deliver two babies and assisted with amputations on other victims.
Our aviation team there reports being absolutely humbled to provide this support. The schedule is rigorous, but the stories of relief their work is providing have kept their spirits up.
Those who have been there since Friday are;
Scott Amidon, pilot
Dave Dudley, director
Becky Eidson, attendant
Jim Klepper, pilot
Robb Patton, pilot
Laura Shockley, attendant
Chad Spoon, technician
Allan Wrinkle, pilot
Pilots Tom Empie and Stormy Thomas are arriving today to provide additional support. If you would like to send a note of appreciation or a few words of encouragement to our teammates there, please email that to email@example.com. These will be gathered together and shared with them right away.
More information about Missionary Flights International, a non-profit organization, is available at http://www.missionaryflights.org. They are in need of financial donations to support their relief work if you are so inclined, and these can be made online under the Support Our Work tab.