Steve Watts is a corporate pilot for Mears Transportation Group out of Orlando. This past weekend, he flew to Les Cayes, Haiti transporting six medical personnel and supplies as part of the relief effort. The following is his story.
I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to fly a relief mission down to Haiti. Matt Hansen and I took six medical personnel and supplies down there on Friday January 22nd 2010 in my company’s Cheyenne 400LS, N500PM. I attached a group photo taken in Les Cayes to this letter which, unfortunately, excluded Matt as he had scooted off as soon as we opened the door to coordinate our arrival.
My first leg was into Nassau where I was met by Abe, Cameron and Matt who were organizing the surgeons and supplies. Matt gave me a mission briefing while I was taking on fuel. Odyssey gave me a break on fuel and was very helpful. We loaded up and were off. I wanted to take as much as possible so multiple fuel stops would be required. As it turns out I was overly cautious about fuel and in retrospect I regret not taking on more supplies.
My first stop was at Inagua, Bahamas to refuel since fuel is unavailable in Haiti and I was concerned about running low down there. They informed us that Avgas was unavailable but they still had plenty of Jet fuel. In fact there was an Aztec with a couple of Doctors on board that had flown down there with the assumption that avgas would be available. They managed to beg a small amount of gas from a local helicopter pilot to get them to another island in search of fuel.
We flew into Cape Haitian to clear customs and after having seen the chaos in Port Au Prince on TV, I found it difficult to believe that Cape Haitian and Port Au Prince are in the same country. Cape Haitian was orderly, calm and efficient. There was even a guy marshaling aircraft on the ramp. There were only seven aircraft on the ramp and three of them were there for Bahamas Habitat. It’s astounding that there were four thousand flights awaiting time slots for Port Au Prince and it was so easy getting into Cape Haitian. The runway was clear, of good quality and thanks to Matt’s previous experience, getting through Customs was a breeze.
Our next hop was to Les Cayes where I landed on one of the best runways I’ve seen in the Caribbean; it could have been a resort airport. It was in a beautiful location, had a great runway with ample ramp space and clean, organized facilities. We were met by people from the Hospital there to take our passengers to work. There was an obvious presence of UN Peacekeepers from Uruguay controlling security at the airport.
After Les Cayes we made a quick stop in Inagua to refuel and back into Nassau where I found Cameron diligently briefing a pilot on Skype for another mission into Haiti. While preflighting for departure back home Abe came out to thank me for my participation.
This was a wonderful experience that I will always cherish. I never felt that I or my aircraft was in danger and I am proud to part of an organization that found a way to cut through the congestion and disorganization to get essential surgeons and supplies on the ground where they are desperately needed.
Our efforts are making a difference. To find out how you can help, check out our Haiti Relief page.