DALLAS – Much of what happened in Houston after Hurricane Harvey centered on the ground, the flash floods, and the lost livelihoods.
But a volunteer air force decided it could help from the sky.
"We operated Houston for about 15 days flying multiple helicopters as many as nine in one day, 27 planes and 10 jets,” said Barrett Blume, volunteer.
He runs an aerial hog hunting business in Temple called Last Shadow and was one of those who joined the effort to deliver supplies to Harvey’s victims from Corpus Christi to Houston to Beaumont.
"We flew medical supplies, personnel to locations that were needed and guided boats in. We guided Coast Guard ships into rescues and just filled a gap nobody was filling,” Blume explained.
He said the volunteers flew 275 relief flights in 15 days.
"It really started with a couple of hog hunters who just had some helicopters and a can-do spirit,” said Alexander Pappas, a Dallas native who’s now a producer in Los Angeles.
Besides Blume’s business, there were other private pilots, military veterans and a helicopter company from Sauget, Illinois, just outside St. Louis who all volunteered quickly as the sky started to clear over the Texas Gulf Coast.
"Yeah, it's kind of the one thing that chokes you up because you see the spirit of unity and solidarity among all these people,” added Pappas.
After Irma, volunteers have now shifted to Florida.
"There are people in Florida right now. The airspace is still kind of difficult to get into. We're just trying to capitalize on our time here,” said Blume.
On Wednesday evening, he flew to Central America to recruit other pilots to fly aid to Caribbean islands hit by Irma.
In addition to the pilots, Pappas said, several social media influencers including Jake Paul, Carmella Rose, Bonnie Jill and Shira Lazar used their accounts to help raise money and awareness for volunteer pilots.
Organizers created a GoFundMe account for donors who want to contribute to jet fuel.
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