Pilot helps organize recovery effort by air

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, September 20, 2017
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Runway Recovery

RUNWAY RECOVERY – Men and women in uniform stand with a plane used to help with relief efforts in South Texas. Operation Airdrop helped with hurricane recovery from Harvey in the Houston area and Irma in Florida. Submitted photo

Driving back from a trip to help with hurricane relief in Rockport, Decatur pilot Doug Jackson began thinking of ways to make aiding those in the South Texas community and others around it easier.

“I realized we could do something with our airplanes to make this better,” he said. “We thought we might have five to 10 people involved, or maybe 15 if we were lucky.”

Working with Metroplex radio host John Clay Wolfe, Jackson put together a plan.

Ten days later, their group, called Operation Airdrop, consisted of 200 aircrafts that flew 500 missions and moved 250,000 pounds of supplies to the region, which saw severe damage from Hurricane Harvey.

“By the next day we had a couple of friends flying our first few missions,” he said. “After seeing that success, we knew we were on to something, so we started gearing up to go to Florida.”

The storm made landfall in the Florida Keys Sept. 10, bringing massive structural and flooding damage.

“Little did we know we were going to be gone for six days. We flew missions out of Lakeland and Olcala, Fla., down to Homestead, which is right on the southern point,” he said. “Friday, we started flying into Key West.”

Helping Hand

HELPING HAND – Officials help load and unload a plane bound for hurricane relief efforts in South Texas. Submitted photo

Jackson said the organization moved its base of operations to Tallahassee to better help with storm relief, flying supplies around the state, including fresh barbecue meals with an organization called Operation BBQ Relief.

“We started flying hot barbecue meals into Key West, which they loved that,” he said. “We took about 500 meals down there.”

Jackson said in many of the instances, the volunteers he encountered were storm victims themselves, pitching in to help rebuild their community.

On Tuesday, Jackson posted an update in Operation Airdrop’s Facebook group thanking the volunteers involved and congratulating them on the large-scale effort. The group accumulated 1,615 members since it was founded.

“As the co-founder of Operation Airdrop, I want to thank each and every one of you that assisted in this Herculean effort! What we as a team have accomplished has caught the attention of the world, and that is great for both GA and our organization going forward,” Jackson wrote. “Thanks again. Rest up, ready your planes and resources, and standby. We will be needed again!”

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