Personal Haitian Relief Operation

A friend who owns what a passenger might call a “real airplane” (two jet engines instead of one propeller) has volunteered his airplane for a Haitian relief flight. We’ll be picking up 50 lb. tents in West Palm Beach (KPBI) and flying them to Providenciales (MBPV) in the Turks and Caicos. From there the tents will be ferried over to a dirt strip in Haiti in a King Air turboprop. We’ll make at least a couple of round-trips and then return home to Boston.

To give you some idea of the hardships that we will be enduring when not in our air-conditioned pressurized airplane…

Departing in about 9 hours and should be back by Friday at the latest.

Separately, I had dinner this evening with a friend who is an emergency room doctor. We were talking about the Haitian tragedy and she said “I might have volunteered to go over there if I were single and childless, but why would I take that kind of risk now that I have children?”

And finally… I’ve been providing some advice and assistance to a couple of non-profit organizations that work in Haiti. One is Partners in Health. They could really use the loan of a Cessna Caravan or similar airplane to ferry supplies between the main international airport and a dirt strip adjacent to their main hospital in the countryside. Contact me if you have the Caravan or the money to lease one and I’ll put you in touch with my friend at Partners in Health (he is a fully trained medical doctor who is not on their Form 990‘s list of five highest paid employees, which means he is earning less than $67,000 per year).

[Update: I made a short video during our tent run. A few days after we got back, the New York Times ran a story saying that “Tents, tents, tents” were what was needed in Haiti. I’ve volunteered to go back and fly helicopters for a Midwestern hospital-based group, but I’m not sure that my offer will be accepted.]


  1. Stephen

    January 20, 2010 @ 9:12 am


    I’m not able to help you unfortunately, but just wanted to express my admiration for what you are doing.

  2. Edward Dixon

    January 20, 2010 @ 11:24 am


    Sadly, I don’t have a Cessna Caravan to lend, but great to hear about the lengths you and your friend are taking to help out in Haiti. Good luck with the trip.

  3. Joshua Levinson

    January 20, 2010 @ 3:28 pm


    Congrats to both of you! I’ve been following your flights so far on FlightAware. I hope all goes well.

  4. Will Emerson

    January 20, 2010 @ 3:30 pm


    I have often been critical of your tone and philosophy but I salute your taking direct action to help the people in Haiti. I have been searching for some way to help beyond sending money but have not found anything I can do yet. Smooth flying and take care.

  5. Cincy Steve

    January 20, 2010 @ 5:52 pm


    If you EVER decide to do something like this again in the future let me know. Frustrated in Cincinnati- Search and Rescue crew here on alert for days and finally all sent home as we were not needed?!. My surgical background is low but I do have several years in ERs and have capabilities outside of medicine.

    Godspeed to you and your crew

  6. diprey

    January 20, 2010 @ 8:55 pm


    What can I do to help? Not a pilot myself, maybe can help with some expenses?

  7. JP

    January 20, 2010 @ 9:27 pm


    Well, I’m sure its a fun challenge for you and your friend. It must be gratifying to fly a mission with a purpose like this. But its still noble.

    I’m jealous because apparently I have no useful skills. They apparently have no need for firefighter/paramedic/rescue people that understand the NIMS command system which medical staff apparently have no clue how to operate under. I’m perfectly willing to fly down there for 2-4 weeks and possibly longer…but I can’t find an organization that wants me.

  8. Chavous Devon Porter

    January 26, 2010 @ 6:04 am


    How much payload can a small twin-engine jet can carry and thus how many 50 lb. tents you guys were able to take per trip, considering you already have two souls aboard?
    Not to impugn your philanthropy efforts, but wouldn’t the money your friend is spending in associated per-hour costs for his jet be better used to purchase additional tents and then simply ship them to Haiti or T and C via a sea-going vessel?
    Surely there are many shippers heading into and out of those ports now, one would think.

  9. philg

    January 26, 2010 @ 9:39 am


    Chavous: We took 18 tents per trip, times two trips, or 36 tents, enough for 360 people. Was it as efficient as loading up a C17 military plane or a container ship? No. But right at the moment that we were delivering the tents there was no way to affect the amount of relief by giving more money. The port was ruined; the big airport at P-a-P was at maximum capacity and turning away flights. Our operation added to Haitian relief by using secondary airports within the country. These small airports are barely being used.

    We did not impede the relief operation by clogging up the big airport, the way that visiting politicians have done. So we did no harm, as far as we can tell. We didn’t claim to be achieving maximum efficiency and, as you point out, I don’t think that we did.

  10. Chavous Devon Porter

    January 26, 2010 @ 12:44 pm


    So you delivered 36 tents by private, twin engine jet? LOL.
    Yes, I would say you did not come close to being
    efficient. As a matter of fact, this sounds like more of
    a rich man’s joy riding excursion than anything else. No
    offense intended!!
    I estimate the costs to do what you did would buy many,
    many more tents plus food and water and medical supplies
    that are direly needed right now.
    PS The port is not ruined. Where did you get that information??

  11. philg

    January 26, 2010 @ 5:23 pm


    Chavous: As far as the port/pier being unusable, I got that from the New York Times, e.g., which says “the main pier in Port-au-Prince has splintered and fallen into the ocean.”

    As far as only contributing to the housing of 360 people (each tent holds 10), obviously we could have done more, but we were asked to transport tents so we transported tents. A builder from upstate New York and members of his church are on the ground in Les Cayes setting up a 6000-person refugee camp. I don’t know of any other organization or government doing anything in Les Cayes. In any case, it wasn’t for us to evaluate the effectiveness of their effort. They asked for help and we answered their call.

    [Similarly, I volunteered to go down to Haiti for a few months and fly helicopters for a midwestern hospital that is sending a team of doctors, nurses, and two helicopters. I’m not sure if they will accept my help. Given the salaries of U.S. doctors and nurses you could certainly argue that it would be much more efficient for these folks to continue working here, soaking up Medicare dollars, and pay Cuban, French, and Italian doctors. Does that mean that no American medical personnel should go to Haiti? If I go down there and fly these folks around in their helicopter, should I consider my time wasted?]

  12. Chavous Devon Porter

    January 26, 2010 @ 9:32 pm


    As someone fairly familiar with what is happening now, I do not think the information that suggests the port is in ruins is entirely accurate. There are several docking areas that are in working order at this time, although with the political infighting that happens there, the authorities are usually extremely sensitive to the release of any positive news about the area, since they (local government officials) fear that such news may result in less aid to the region.
    And I am not suggesting that you should or should not do anything. On the
    contrary, I think what they have received thus far is amazing considering how
    corrupt Haiti’s government has been for at least the last few decades.
    Many of the building collapses are the result of building codes that
    are easily circumvented by bribery during the construction process.

  13. David Wihl

    January 27, 2010 @ 9:46 pm


    Chavous, you should not assume that flying tents down is mutually exclusive with financial and other contributions. It’s not an either / or proposition. It’s all too simple to just write a check. It’s quite another matter to leave your family and business to help others anonymously at short notice when the call came.

  14. razor

    February 10, 2010 @ 9:59 pm


    Folks the port is NOT the issue. The issue is the ability to distribute out from P-a-P. The Hatian officals are sending peopel out of P-a-P to the country side. Small communities of 5,000 are swelling to 80,000!!! Go to and read about volunteer efforts that have brought 150,000 + lbs. of medical supplies and food directly to the outlying areas (Cap Haitian, Les Cayes, Jermie). There are clinics, schools and orpahanages that are directly connected. Delivered medical supplies are put to use immediately! All through VOLUNTEER pilots and aircraft owners!!! Donated supplies!!!! Burning $15,000 to $20,000 of AVgas and JETgas each day!!!! Want to help? GO TO THE WEBSITE!!!! Pilot? Aircraft owner? Check out the Pay it Ahead page!!!!! You can make a huge difference and help save lives!!!!!

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