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is based. In that moment I witnessed more tions. So the plan was devised to travel in
than 50 airplanes and 25 helicopters at a flights of two or more so if one went
single runway airport, all with the same down, a communication relay could be ac-
laudable goal in mind, to assist with the complished. I really have to hand it to the
tragedy in Haiti. Before noon, pilots were professionals at Helidosa. Those folks
reporting multiple “Near Misses”, the were thrust into a situation they had never
waiting room at Helidosa was packed to (obviously) encountered, but it didn’t take
overflowing, and the Haitian government them long to assess, adapt, and smoothly
became overwhelmed closing the airspace and efficiently bring the chaos under con-
around the Port Au Prince (PAP) airport trol! It was a real pleasure to work side by
due to saturation. The interesting part side with their team!
though is the WAY they closed the air- The following days brought reports of
space. The tower operator simply an- ground convoys being attacked, drivers
nounced the airspace was closed, told killed for their cargo of food and water,
everybody to get out, and then turned off and a 6.0 aftershock that could be felt 100
the radio leaving dozens of aircraft un- miles away. As the danger escalated, we
controlled and in close proximity. were forced to set up a series of 5 desig-
It wasn’t long however, before every- nated “Safe” Landing Zones and a curfew
one got on the same sheet of music. The of nightfall was established. Then came
military reopened the airspace, fixed wing the stories of the amputations under a co-
aircraft were all on the standard IFR conut tree without anesthesia, and doctors
routes, and the helicopters were flying saving their patients only to lose them be-
structured routing into and out of the PAP cause they ran out of antibiotics. During
Airport. Load manifests were filled out, the Stress Management debriefing one
weight and balances calculated, and evening, a pilot shared the story of a Hait-
schedules developed to effectively and ian security guard that was helping to se-
safely move the patients, passengers, and cure one of our landing zones. The guard
cargo into and out of the country. Then worked hard to help in the aftermath of
came the challenge of no communications the quake, all the while knowing that he
for flight following. Once you crossed the had lost his entire family consisting of a
border into Haiti, the power was out and wife and 9 children.
you no longer had access to the standard Yep, I think “Perspective” is the right
avenues for long distance communica- word. • January 2010 27
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