Kevin Griffin, one of the Program Managers on the Flight Simulator team is currently down in the disaster area with his Maule transporting relief supplies. What follows is a email he sent to the team last week and an update relayed over the weekend. Reposted with permission and editted only to remove some non-pertinent private information.
Safe flying, Kevin.
Subject: Katrina Relief Effort
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 2005 22:36:26 -0700
From: Kevin Griffin
Tomorrow night I will arrive at Central Texas airport, Lago Vista (5R3) to fly relief supplies via the Maule to airports in Mississippi, Louisiana and surrounding areas. A church group has stationed an unlimited supply of relief items at Lago Vista. Already they have delivered >70 loads (about 17,000 pounds) & made a HUGE difference in people's lives. There are currently 17 volunteer pilots, including myself and 1 other friend who is a pilot & Microsoft employee. We will be flying dawn to dusk. No night flights that I'm aware of as there is no power at many of the destination airports.
While this effort is entirely at our own expenses, (although volunteers are boarding the pilots and logistics volunteers in their homes around the airport), if you feel like donating, no gas money offer will be refused. Even though gas prices there for Avgas are only $2.25 a gallon, getting there they average around $3.80-4.50.
I have heard the military is not allowing photographs, but will do my best to keep you all appraised of the situation.
And here's the update:
Sent: Fri 9/9/2005 9:27 PM
Subject: FW: Friday: Update: Kevin
Volunteering for Katrina Relief Effort
Good evening all.
I was finally able to talk with Kevin for about 20 minutes tonight - it was good to hear his voice and hear of all the wonderful things that they are doing for people in need.
Let me try to piece together all of the information he gave me .. which was alot.
He has taken about 200 pictures so far, but without internet connection, sharing them out will have to wait until he comes back home.
Today he flew to Hattiesburg, Mississippi (not Slidell as originally thought). 8.5 hours of flying total and over 400 miles each way. The destruction from the air is very hard to realize. Most of the areas that have been hit by the hurricane look like "junk yards" from the air. Once he landed, however, he saw some of the damage at the airport. He told me of a hangar that looked like it was ripped to shreds. The hangar door had been completely torn off and had landed on the wing of a King Air still parked inside. The insulation and metal was just hanging from the structure which was once a hangar.
Hattiesburg is a staging area for the coast. Most of the supplies that are being flown in are being put on trucks and transpored to more remote areas.
Kevin transported about 400lbs of cargo today - including baby formula, rice, top ramen, mac and cheese, cookies, canned food, other non perishable items, and vegatables. All of the volunteers today, transported over 10,000lbs of cargo today alone - all of which has been donated. He told me that they were on the local news last night and, this morning, local residents start showing up at the hangar asking them where they could donate ... their trunks were full of supplies.
There are volunteers everywhere - at Lago Vista, they are there to load and balance the airplane, take care of the pilots, and a mechanic to ensure the planes are in good condition - at the destination airports, they are there to unload the planes and put the needed supplies in trucks (trucks are usually waiting for them or arrive shortly after they land - after hearing them approach on radio frequencies).
There is a lot of aircraft in the area. There are Relief Flights, which are all cargo (like Kevin). There are Angel Flights, which are transporting people out of the area. The Civil Air Patrol is there as well as a lot of Military aircraft.
When I asked him about how he was holding up - he told me again about the wonderful volunteers. The family that he is staying with is about a 20 min drive from Lago Vista airport and is housing both Kevin and Alan (the other pilot from Seattle). They take them to the airport in the morning and come back and pick them up in the evening. They are also providing them breakfast and dinner. He is very thankful to be getting a good nights sleep and good meals after full days of flying and loading/unloading supplies.
Tomorrow, Saturday, has already been set. Kevin's airplane is fueled and loaded with supplies - ready to take off. Tomorrow morning he will be going to Slidell - the flight will be a bit closer than Hattiesburg was today, so he may make two trips (which would probably make for even a longer day)
I told him about everyone here at home and their overwhelming support and pride. He enjoyed hearing as I read the emails and told him of the wishes that everyone has sent. He wanted to thank you all for your support, thoughts and prayers (as do I) - Thank you too for starting a "fuel fund" for Kevin... fuel is costing about 500.00 - 600.00 a day, so this fund is greatly appreciated.
When I told him that I was sending updates to everyone, he told me of a little story which he found a bit funny... when he landed today at Hattiesburg, he noticed that the air was thick with "fly" like bugs. He was told that these were "Love Bugs" and that they are not normally in Mississippi, but rather found in Florida. The hurricane had picked them up and dropped them off there... They were so thick that when Kevin came back to the airplane after it being unloaded, they had covered the airplane in a blanket (he thinks they were attracted to it). He had to use a papertowel to wipe them away just to get the door open... ick...
Again, thanks to everyone for your overwhelming support.
I'll continue to keep everyone updated, although I think that information may slow down as his weekend sounds like it will be long hours and a lot of flying.
Now that is getting in there and helping out.