FREDERICKSBURG, Va., Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Skydiving centers across the country have found an unusual way to contribute to the Haiti relief effort - by using skydiving aircraft to transport food and medical supplies to the island.
"Jump aircraft are especially well-suited for these missions," said Ed Scott, executive director of the U.S. Parachute Association (USPA). "Most have large cargo doors and are easily converted to carry cargo. Most can also take off and land on short and sometimes rough landing strips."
Shortly after the earthquake, USPA e-mailed its affiliated skydiving centers that relief organizations and the U.S. government needed aircraft to bring supplies and personnel from around the U.S. to Florida for staging, as well as directly to Haiti.
Keith George, owner of Skydive Jamaica, a new USPA-affiliated skydiving center, quickly began working with the Jamaican government. Within days of the earthquake, Skydive Jamaica used its King Air aircraft to evacuate Jamaicans from Haiti. Since then, Skydive Jamaica has worked with Missions International of America to provide airlift support for the organization's efforts in Haiti.
John Hart, owner of Start Skydiving in Middletown, Ohio, called Doctors Without Borders to find out what supplies the organization needed most. With fuel donated by his employees at Selection.com, Hart arranged for his Cessna Caravan aircraft to transport an essential digital x-ray machine, plus another 250 pounds of medical equipment, to Port-au-Prince.
Other skydiving centers are doing their part. Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, has flown several trips to Haiti in its DeHavilland Twin Otter, transporting 4,000 pounds of food, water, tents and medical supplies on each flight. Additionally, Frank Casares, owner of Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont, Colorado, is sending his Twin Otter on a two-week aid mission to Haiti.
Skydive Cross Keys in New Jersey, south of Philadelphia, is also sending its Twin Otter to ferry tents and medical supplies to Haiti for two weeks. Area skydivers are donating tents, tarps and money to cover fuel costs. Samaritan's Purse, a charity organization, has arranged for the Twin Otter to land on a remote grass strip in Haiti, rather than the crowded main airport.
"It's great that the skydiving community has such valuable assets and aircraft to offer to the relief effort," said Scott. "With so many people looking for ways to help, skydivers are excited to have this unique opportunity to make a difference in the face of tragedy."
Founded in 1946, the United States Parachute Association is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting safe skydiving nationwide, establishing strict safety standards, training policies and programs at more than 200 USPA-affiliated skydiving schools and centers throughout the United States. Each year, USPA's 32,000-plus members and hundreds of thousands of first-time jumpers make approximately three million jumps in the U.S.
**Photos available upon request**
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SOURCE United States Parachute Association