Rich Pickett is SDSU’s CIO and a licensed pilot for 32 years. He is volunteering his time to fly relief flights to earthquake ravaged Haiti and will be sharing his experiences here as often as he is able …
Two large generators, 3 people, and equipment needed to reach Port au Prince. One of our passengers was James (Diems – his birth name), who is Haitian and trying to help his mother in Port Au Prince. She was living in the yard of the city’s mayor, himself with a damaged house and no way to obtain supplies for the people in his yard.
We loaded the equipment and tried to obtain a landing slot into the airport. After many attempts, it just wasn’t going to work. We couldn’t obtain the slot we needed. All of the equipment (1000 lbs) was off loaded with everyone’s help, and I decided to utilize Plan B. I didn’t want to see the plane idle.
We saw 2 large pallets of supplies for an orphanage and church in the warehouse labeled for Jacmel, so the plane was loaded again. My only requirement for the cargo, was it had to include a tent for our friend Pierre! We didn’t have any tents, so we brought a canopy frame and several plastic tarps.
I proceeded to plan the flight, entered the required information for Homeland Security and reviewed the weather. We were disappointed that we couldn’t get James home to Port au Prince. We came up with the idea of at least flying him to Jacmel, a 5 hour ride over 120 kilometers of rough roads. We brought along Brad Barker so he would do some aerial survey work, and Sueanne Campion who is co-owner of Banyan Air Service at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Banyan has been incredibly gracious to us, and the other volunteer pilots. Generosity that was a key to our success. I wanted her to see the areas that were recipients of their contributions of time and money.
We landed at Jacmel and offloaded all of our cargo. Dr. Steve Heicklan, who we had met on an earlier trip was there to greet us. He had 4 children in critical condition to transport to Philadelphia for immediate treatment. Without treatment they would not make it to the weekend. I offered to take them to Florida since he had arranged the use of a jet from there to Philadelphia. A few minutes later, he found out that the jet wasn’t available. A serious Nor’easter was heading for Philly on Wednesday. I promised to review the weather and see if I might be able to take them for treatment. He was unable to find any other hospitals willing to accept the patients and the costs of their care. Hopefully the forecast won’t be correct and we will be able to find transportation.
Just before heading for home, we had a call from Dr. Rick Bonnell, the same physician who had received the C-arm X-ray machine from us a few days ago. He had just adopted an orphan girl, whose parents had died prior to the earthquake, and was trying to find a way to bring her home to Texas. We hadn’t anticipated that we would be flying in Port Au Prince, however we would now be able to take James home and pick up Dr. Bonnell and his daughter. We departed Jacmel and headed to Port Au Prince.
Rick’s new daughter is a sweetie! She is 18 months old and had lost her mother a few months after her birth and her father had died in a rock quarry, with no one to take care of her. She was an orphan prior to the earthquake, which eased the process. We all vied to hold her and she was great on her first plane trip. We touch down at 11 p.m. and Laney had a new home.