Medical team volunteers splash in to Haiti to provide relief
From the Lake County (CA) Record-Bee
By Mandy Feder — News editor
LAKE COUNTY Chuck Kimes organizes the annual seaplane Splash-In because he loves Clear Lake, the organizations and the people in Lake County. He is an avid seaplane enthusiast.
On Sunday he assisted in sending a seaplane embarked on a mission of humanitarianism rather than leisure. Kimes’ company SeaPlane Operations, LLC is providing flight planning, permitting and customs clearance filing services for a seaplane sent to Haiti.
Runways are crammed in Port Au Prince. As many as 800 planes are awaiting clearance to fly in. The disrepair of the roads and the lack of infrastructure is hampering relief efforts substantially.
Seaplanes are capable of providing instant assistance. They bypass the usual, blocked relief routes and fly directly to the beach. Only the Grumman HU-16 Albatross is capable of carrying large loads from Miami directly to the waters off of Haiti and returning without refueling in Haiti, Kimes said.
A group of 12 doctors and nurses from Marquette, MI., brainstormed about a way to get themselves and tons of donated supplies to Haiti to participate in the relief effort.
The doctors and nurses joined up with Partners In Health, a Haitian health provider. Together they would provide care at an understaffed hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti.
The medical group contacted Albatross owner and operator Bill DaSilva. His seaplane was in Florida for the winter. Without hesitation DaSilva donated the use of his plane and his time to get the medical staff to the devastated region.
DaSilva’s 1955 Albatross is a large, twin-engine amphibious flying boat. DaSilva’s Albatross has made appearances on Clear Lake and DaSilva has attended the Splash-In.
The Albatross was initially developed to land in the open ocean for the rescue of downed Navy pilots. The aircraft was first introduced in 1949 and primarily used by the United States Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy.
The medical team is funding its own shelter, food, supplies and support as well as providing fuel for one round-trip to Haiti. Delta Airlines provided transportation to Miami for the doctors and their supplies.
The venture comes with a price tag of more than $12,000 for each round-trip flight. Those involved are donating their time, money and taking unpaid days off of work.
Paul and Linda LeVeque flew to Florida from Santa Rosa, California to provide piloting and maintenance support.
“It keeps me up at night. It’s worth getting up in the middle of the night,” Kimes said. “It’s a great way to make a visible contribution through general aviation.”
The Albatross is capable of delivering 4,000 pounds of supplies directly to seaside locations around Haiti and then returning without any ground support.
Kimes said the group is working on transporting already-adopted orphans back to the United States on the return trip from Haiti. Kimes says the most monumental expense is the fuel.
For more information visit www.haiti.seaplaneops.com.