In 2015, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) reports there were 33 major disasters, 122 small-to-medium disasters, and 450 emergency events.
There is little doubt that without aviation, the international response to these events would have been even more challenging.
A critical role is played by aviation charity, Airlink. It has more than 35 airline members and has already been responsible for coordinating the delivery of more than $5 million in aid packages to all regions of the world.
Steve Smith, Airlink’s Executive Director, says that humanitarian needs continue to grow and aviation is a vital element in fulfi lling those needs. “It is often about small, timesensitive shipments rather than flying volume,” he says. “Airlines are a perfect fi t for those requirements. The more airline members Airlink has, the stronger the network, and the better the crisis response.”
Airlink also teams up with other aviation stakeholders such as airframe manufacturers. Both Airbus and Boeing have programs that put aid packages on delivery flights, for example. The Airbus Foundation reports that in 2015, 13 airlines cooperated on 28 delivery flights out of Toulouse. Ten tonnes of aid were delivered to Nepal on a Nepal Airlines delivery flight following the devastating earthquake in the country, while toys and books from a Toulouse hospital were collected and sent to a Hanoi hospital onboard a Vietnam Airlines delivery flight. Cebu Pacific, Emirates, Philippine Airlines, Thai, and Turkish were among the other airlines involved.
There are challenges. Legal issues confound easy customs clearance. Logistical problems are plentiful. And where an airline flies from may not be an easy gathering point for aid packages consisting of food, medicine, and temporary shelter.
But these challenges never stop a committed industry. “Airlines do a lot of work directly,” concludes Smith. “But Airlink enables the coordination that brings even greater value to aviation’s work in disaster response.”
Photo © Mike Morse / Global Outreach Doctors