CalDART delivers Direct Relief medical supplies to American Indian tribe
Volunteer pilots and ground crew rang in the new year by tackling the herculean task of transporting more than a ton of donated medical supplies by air more than 500 miles in California from Santa Barbara to the Yurok Reservation near Crescent City.
This effort was a collaboration between the all-volunteer California Pilots Association Disaster Airlift Response Team (CalDART) and Goleta-based Direct Relief, the nation’s largest supplier of free donated medical supplies.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, volunteers loaded privately owned planes with more than 800 pounds of medical supplies, including masks, face shields, gowns and thermometers.
On Jan. 2, volunteer pilots from Torrance loaded their cargo holds at Signature Flight Support at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport with additional supplies.
The group delivered the remaining 1,600 pounds of supplies Jan. 5 during a favorable break in the current pattern of winter storms in Northern California.
“This is another wonderful example of the aviation community assisting in disasters,” said Karen Kahn, a CalDART volunteer and retired airline pilot who flies her twin-engine Beechcraft Baron airplane out of Santa Barbara Airport. “We just have to put out the call, and California aviators come to the aid of those most in need.”
CalDART has developed a network of volunteers organized to improve California’s disaster resilience in the face of earthquakes, floods, fires and other events that might impair regional surface transportation.
COVID-19 has presented new opportunities to respond to quickly changing healthcare circumstances.
But with hope for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, many of the most vulnerable communities remain the hardest hit as the pandemic rages throughout the state.
Last September, CalDART pilots and Direct Relief used the Santa Barbara Airport as the launching point for two dozen small airplanes that delivered thousands of pounds of supplies to the front lines of the Oregon wildfires as that state battled converging crises that swallowed up stores of masks and other personal protective equipment.
During the devastating 2018 mudflows, local pilots shuttled essential workers and supplies when extensive damage to Highway 101 cut off Santa Barbara from all points south.
The CalDART Network is a nonprofit organized to prepare California pilots and ground personnel to provide volunteer emergency air transportation services to benefit communities during disasters. CalDART pilots and aircraft owners donate their time and operating expenses to these disaster relief efforts.
Through strategic alliances with organizations such as Direct Relief, CalDART volunteers throughout California mobilize quickly during disasters to airlift supplies and humanitarian aid where they are needed the most.