Sky Terry takes an in-depth look back at general aviation and how it served as a lifeline in 2017 and how we hope it will continue to grow in the future.
As one year closes and another starts it’s nice to look back and see how general aviation has helped and how so much progress is occurring with future planning for what the West Coast faces. Facing a catastrophic earthquake of 8 plus magnitude for 3 to 5 minutes of shaking is something that is incredibly scary, but with what is occurring now, in terms of including general aviation (private pilots and commercial pilots) as a critical resource, I see a lot of hope to what was otherwise a pretty bleak prospect. That resource combined with the standard resources can make an incredible difference.
But as I look back it’s pretty amazing for me to realize that I started working on this shortly after hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Nisqually earthquake in 2001. That was so long ago I can’t totally remember the exact trigger but in general I just felt that I wanted to do something to help with what we faced and improve our state’s odds. Realizing the magnitude of the earthquake we faced and the tremendous devastation that was possible I started by looking at past events around the world and seeing what these kind of earthquakes could do in other areas and realized how topographically our state was set up to be devastated. After realizing that and making a large map of the state it became clear that planes would be our saving grace.
By marking all the airstrips on the map and seeing the amount of water access it was pretty clear this was the key to the response. Ironically though the map, which was originally intended for mapping the aviation response, wasn’t used until 2017 this year and now sits up on the wall in Eden Home Health’s office in Bellingham where I work as a Home Health Nurse. Helping my company be better prepared has involved many of the same preparatory aspects and as we serve 4 counties with nurses that do house calls, having the ability to visual map where the damage is and where our clinicians end up has proved very valuable.
It was a hard road to get to where we are at now. Lots of learning and up and down moments as we tried to find how to get this to work. First starting at pain field, I tried bringing the local pilot groups together while at the same time being a full time nursing student. It was quite a lot, but the need for this resource was so critical it needed to be done. It started to initially come together, but with the need to move to Bellingham to finish my nursing degree it pretty much stopped down there.
It wasn’t until we moved up to Bellingham in 2009 and found a good place to start conducting live drills with seaplanes that things started to really formulate. That is when drills started to occur at Lake Washington at Kenmore Air’s main facility and at Lake Whatcom with the generous support of the Washington
Seaplane Pilots Association. For many years we were doing live exercises at both locations, so 2 a year, as it was more refined with each drill. But something was still missing. This had grown to now involved the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps/Air Care Alliance and many other response resources in multiple states and counties. But we still needed one more piece and that came out of California.
You tube of two springs MCI’s;
Most recent MCI drill video;
Paul Marshall reached out to me after finding out about me from the EVAC web site. In our conversation I learned that he also had been working on how to organize and develop pilots as a critical transportation resource in the after event of a natural disaster. We talked about our efforts and realized we could collaborate and in 2015 did the first ever multi-state drill in our area.
From up here in Washington we did a food drive that was sponsored by the local Lake Way Fred Meyers and one of Paul’s Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) pilots picked up the food from Bellingham International and flew it to the main airport where the local DART’s in California were collecting the food to be given to a homeless shelter. It was a tremendous distance, WA to CA in a day, but showed GA potential in a dramatic way.
After that we started trying to get DART’s going up here and that was the missing piece. His Disaster Airlift Response Plan (DARP) program provided structure that was easily transferable to many areas and it was very well received in Jefferson and Clallam Counties and we were off and running. Combined with this new aspect and being able to regularly share these gains made through seaplanemagazine.com, things have truly launched in a great way. Being a writer is definitely not something I ever anticipated in my future, but it’s something that I’ve found I enjoy and I’m grateful for the excellent mentoring I’ve had from Seaplanemagazine.com and others.
Jefferson County Seaplane Exercise;
Now thanks to the foresight and leadership occurring in Jefferson and Clallam counties others are following their lead and where people were looking at a 3 week wait, it’s now far less in many areas. The amount of lives they are going to save because they thought outside the box by simply accepting what the planet was going to leave them with and using all their available resources is is wonderful to see. I have always felt GA could make this critical difference, but did not know for sure if I would get the chance to see this realized without the planet drop kicking us back to the stone age. I am deeply grateful for all they are doing as it’s giving us a better future.
We then had the multiple hurricanes on the East Coast, of which I was given the chance through the ACA/EVAC and then Aerobridge to play a small roll in. Seeing how badly things fell apart, but then how general and commercial aviation stepped into the gap and provided that critical life line was a once in a life time experience. I’ll never forget how at one point I was talking with people on the ground in Texas and hearing them say that without general aviation the body count would have been much higher. It was proof positive that what is occurring in Jefferson and Clallam counties is on the right track and will absolutely save many, many lives.
The highlight for me in this time was getting to help bring the Pegasus flying boat (an Albatross) into the mix and watching it fly 3 runs to St. Thomas to deliver 15,000 lbs of supplies. It showed clearly what is more then likely going to happen for the west coast when the time comes with using land based and water based aircraft to once again supply that much needed life line.
So as the year closes a special thank you to all who’ve helped develop this program over the many years and keep watching because next year promises to see even more gains in preparation with Jefferson and Clallam Counties leading the way for the rest of us in Washington.