By Bob Shane
We’ve all seen the TV images of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people stranded without so much as a bottle of water to sustain themselves. Not just for hours, but for days. Necessary supplies were simply not getting to where they were needed. It was scenes such as this that frustrated Arizona pilot Ken Moskowitz, creative director for the local Phoenix radio station KTAR.
“When you see people in distress, not getting help in a timely fashion, it makes you want to help,” Moskowitz said.
It was this feeling of frustration that moved him to action. Moskowitz went to his boss, the general manager of the radio station, and said, “I have this idea.” His boss thought it was a great idea and asked, “What can I do to help?” Moskowitz’ plan was to find out what supplies were needed, then locate some volunteer pilots with airplanes to deliver the supplies as close as possible to the needy area. Before long, he was checking the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website and enlisting the support of the Arizona Pilots Association. Williams Gateway Airport, in Mesa, Ariz., agreed to help by providing the staging area. Soon, Moskowitz’ project was beginning to take on a life of its own. He was in communication with the triage center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., finding out what kind of supplies they needed. He talked to the tower at Baton Rouge Airport (BTR), looking for an assurance.
“I need to know that our aircraft are not going to be turned away,” he said.
The Phoenix Memorial Hospital donated the medical supplies. The radio station paid for the products that were purchased. Then, early on the first Sunday morning following Katrina’s assault on New Orleans, there were four general aviation aircraft parked on the Williams Gateway ramp being loaded with medical supplies and essentials for the care of infants. Tim Barrios was flying his Piper Aztec. He calculated that it would be a six-hour flight to BTR, with a fuel stop in Sonora, Texas. The other volunteers included Bob Jackson, flying his Cessna 310, Mark Robbins in his Beech Baron and Michael Bidwill, vice president and general counsel for the Arizona Cardinals, flying his King Air. In total, 2,000 pounds of supplies were loaded on the four aircraft and soon they were on their way to BTR.
Moskowitz stayed behind to notify the tower that the four aircraft were coming and to coordinate any future efforts. When asked why he got involved, he said, “I just wanted to use my pilot skills to make a difference and help someone.” This was the most expeditious way of getting essential supplies into the hands of those that needed them. No frustration here!