My volunteer efforts for the Delta Pilot Network began the same way for both Irma and Harvey: My coordinator sent out a plan with an appeal for volunteers, and a short time later I had a list of fellow pilots to contact after the storms moved through. My goal was simply to reach out to as many of our pilots as I could to let them know help was available.
Top priority was making sure our pilots and their families were physically safe. Second, I tried to assist with more practical needs. For example, Harvey’s unpredicted severity caused many Houston pilots to be unexpectedly unable to get home. We were able to identify pilots who were stranded or without lodging, and were able to direct them to Chief Pilots, who assisted those pilots on a case-by-case basis.
For Irma, the last-minute shift in the storm’s track had everyone scrambling. Again, I made an effort to directly contact pilots to make them aware of assistance and suggest resources best suited for their situation. Our conversations also informed us of issues we never considered. For example, those forecasted to dodge Irma found themselves for days without power and consequently had no PBS bid in for the next month. We were able to find a last-minute solution to help some pilots get in a basic bid as the window was closing.
Our conversations also led us to shift our efforts geographically. After many pilots in the Florida panhandle reported that Irma was a non-event, we devoted more resources to the Savannah and Charleston areas. Of course, some did have serious issues such as flooding, loss of vehicles and, in the case of those who reside in the Florida Keys, the loss of homes. For those pilots, we were able to recommend the FERF and the Pilots for Pilots programs.
The Furlough Emergency Relief Fund (FERF) provides interest free loans to Delta pilots who have a demonstrated need, while the Pilots for Pilots (P4P) program provides grants for immediate needs following catastrophic events. (If you’re wondering how you can help, a tax-deductible P4P donation is a great way!) The Delta Care Fund was also offered as an option; if a program helps our people we wanted pilots to know about it regardless of who the administrator is.
The biggest takeaway for me was what a dedicated pilot group we have. Several pilots volunteered their homes to other Delta families who were flooded, or just needed a hot shower. A few even volunteered to travel to more impacted areas to lend a hand. Even if they suffered some damage, all the pilots I contacted were thankful for the call. I’m proud that I was part of the effort to get the message out that when misfortune strikes your fellow Delta pilots at ALPA have your back.