A dozen planes ferried supplies across the Canada-U.S. border from Langley Airport on Saturday, June 18, during “Operation Thunder” an exercise in disaster preparedness.
It was organized by Shaun Heaps, a Langley-based pilot who founded the British Columbia Airlift Emergency Response Operations (BC AERO) after coordinating an ad-hoc all-volunteer relief flight operation to flood-ravaged B.C. communities last November.
It was a real-life practice, with planes ferrying 30,000 pounds of food supplies to food banks in eight different locations, including Bellingham, Walla Walla and Renton, coordinating with Disaster Airlift Response Teams (DART) in the U.S.
“It’s just a training exercise to see how well it’ll work in an emergency – for Canada helping the U.S., or US helping Canada for flood, earthquakes volcano, ice, whatever emergency comes up,” Heaps told the Langley Advance Times.
Langley-based pilot Gary Peare, a ham radio operator, discovered his antenna needed to be moved to the top of a hanger roof for better reception.
“We’re kind of in a pocket, here,” Peare remarked.
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AERO volunteer pilot Mike Davenport, a Langley City resident, was tracking supplies with a clipboard as they were loaded.
Davenport said the need for light aircraft to provide aid for isolated communities was clearly demonstrated during the flooding when many communities were completely cut off because the roads to their villages were washed out.
“I had family in Merritt and Princeton and they were impacted,” Davenport said.
“It’s something that needs to be done,” Davenport added.
Heaps said AERO organisations have also been created in Alberta and Ontario, with more to come.
“We’re hoping to be across Canada by the next year or so,” Heaps said.
Following the U.S. DART model, AERO pilots and aircraft owners are trained in the basics of search and rescue and disaster relief.