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A bird’s eye view of disaster

By AMELIA T. REIHELD, For General Aviation News

It’s been one heck of a month at SouthWings headquarters in Asheville, N.C. Ever since the Deep Horizons oil drilling rig exploded and collapsed off the Louisiana coast, the aviation-centered conservation organization has been besieged by calls from the press and environmental groups requesting flights. It’s the best way to see the extent of a growing oil slick that now covers much of the Gulf of Mexico and laps at the beaches of the northern Gulf Coast.

In normal times, the environmental nonprofit group works with volunteer pilots and their donated aircraft to monitor land use, water quality, waste management, mining and forestry practices. By arranging flights for scientists, media, and environmental groups, they are able to keep an eye on threatened coastal preserves, industrial and mining projects, factory-farm complexes, and other areas of environmental concern that might otherwise be inaccessible.

SouthWings’ 36 volunteer pilots fly in Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana. In most of the rest of North America, a sister organization, LightHawk, has a similar mission. Normally, the organizations schedule flights several weeks in advance, and proceed at a quiet and measured pace, flying, at most, a few dozen missions each month. These are not “normal times,” though. The demand for environmental flights along the Gulf Coast has caused quite a scramble at SouthWings’ offices, as the staffers try to find enough volunteer pilots to fly them.

“This is huge. It may become the biggest disaster in U.S. history, if they don’t get it capped soon,” said Caroline Douglas, SouthWings’ conservations programs manager. “I have six flights scheduled for today, five flights scheduled for tomorrow — a record for us — with no end in sight.”

Reporters, photographers and environmental staff who have flown in GA planes over the spreading oil slick are returning to terra firma with a new perspective.

Read more…

===> Posted on May 10, 2010 by . No comments. © GAN 2010

A bird’s eye view of disaster is a post from: Small Jet Charter

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