Flying to Save Lives

Dart briefing

While emergency workers were battling one disaster at San Martin Airport, another crew was preparing for a future disaster.

CalFire helicopters were scooping up flame retardant on the far side of the small but bustling airport and flying it to the Loma fire 10 miles away, while across the tarmac a couple dozen volunteer pilots were doing a drill to use private planes to transport food, emergency supplies and people in the event of a disaster, like the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Called DART—Disaster Airlift Response Team—the exercise drew pilots from around California who wanted to help move supplies, doctors and do rescues in the event of a disaster. San Martin was one of the first outposts for the organization when local pilots helped get supplies to Santa Cruz County after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake cut truck travel.

“This is a good way to give back to the community and prepare for everything,” said pilot Glenn Reynolds, 55, a water engineer who commutes by plane between his home 62 miles north and Gavilan College’s Gilroy campus, where he teaches water engineering. “I live in Half Moon Bay and we have two roads in and today, during the pumpkin festival, there are four-hour traffic jams. It’s a given that we’ll have a water supply emergency and as an engineer I can figure how to get systems back on.”

He already travels the state, helping agencies with water problems. He got his start flying as an engineer in the Bahamas, where his employer tired of paying his airline expenses to travel from island to island.
“In South County this is a critically important asset, as far as we’re concerned,” said Gilroy Fire Department Capt. Roy J. Shackel. “It’s been proven in Loma Prieta and the help they provided to Watsonville, and that was just an ad hoc effort. In South County we’re lucky to have it organized. I’m stoked. This is fabulou

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