Oct. 31, 2012, Orlando, Fla. - As pounding rain and wind speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour heralded the arrival of "Superstorm" Sandy along the Eastern seaboard earlier this week, companies and operators participating in NBAA's Humanitarian Emergency Response Operator (HERO) database were already working with national emergency agencies and personnel to assist with post-storm relief efforts using business aircraft.
The NBAA HERO database is a list of people and companies throughout the business aviation community who have volunteered to assist with disaster-response mobilization efforts. While ground transportation is often the preferred means of assisting with relief efforts, business aircraft have long served as a lifeline to people and communities in crisis, and are uniquely suited to providing a first response to natural disasters and other emergencies.
Business aircraft are often able to reach locations impacted by natural disasters when airliners and sometimes even automobiles cannot – operating on short notice into outlying airports with small runways, unpaved airstrips or even onto roads. Robin Eissler, president of the Sky Hope Network, said her organization this week has staged aircraft of varying types between New York City and Wilmington, DE that are ready to be utilized as needed.
"At the moment, much like the rest of the country, we're waiting to see what the damage is and what efforts will be needed in the hours immediately following the storm's passage," she added. "Our focus is specifically on life-saving flights and placing aviation assets where they are needed most."
Operators may register their aircraft on the HERO database, and individual personnel may also note their specific skills that may be of use during relief efforts. In the aftermath of major crises, NBAA provides basic information from the database to dozens of business aircraft operators and other organizations to assist with their coordination of relief efforts.
"We work with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) to determine what their needs might be, and when they will require our assistance," explained Marianne Stevenson, president of aviation relief organization AERObridge. "At this point we're monitoring the situation and preparing to respond as needed to the relief effort following Sandy."
Billed as a "superstorm" by media outlets, Sandy made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in the early evening of Oct. 29 along the southern New Jersey coast, with flooding reported throughout the state and into lower Manhattan. Numerous deaths have been attributed to Sandy, and more than 6 million homes and businesses were left without power throughout the eastern United States. Effects from the storm have reached as far inland as Chicago.