Pilot wants to fly to disasters | VailDaily.com

Pilot wants to fly to disasters

Nicole Formosa
Special to the Daily

SUMMIT COUNTY – On 9/11, pilot Morgan Garvey was flying a client to St. Louis from the East Coast when he heard a strange transmission on the radio. A voice commanded everybody to stay in their seats, and that there was a bomb on board.He would later discover he was hearing the sounds of terrorists taking control of United Flight 93 – one of four planes hijacked that morning as part of the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil.Grounded in Nashville, Garvey walked into the flight base operations center just as the big screen television inside showed the second tower of the World Trade Center crumble.”It just hit me in the guts,” the Silverthorne resident said. “First of all being a pilot and knowing that my profession was used to kill 3,000 people really pissed me off.”He immediately wanted to help, but military recruiters told him that at 35 he was too old to begin flight training. “I thought, OK water under the bridge, spilled milk, but I will always look for something else I can do in service,” he said.Garvey moved to Summit County in 2003 where he continued piloting charter flights and occasionally volunteered for the Summit County Rescue Group.But, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the desire to put his skills and experience as a pilot toward a worthy cause stirred again, especially when Garvey heard of the difficulties rescue personnel had reaching the zones most devastated by the storm due to washed out roads.”I heard all these stories about guys trying to get in and not being able to do it and I thought, you know, my God there’s got to be a way,” he said.

Garvey, who has 18 years’ experience as a pilot, created DARTS – Disaster Air Response Teams – a nonprofit organization designed to fly emergency personnel into natural disasters, like wildfires or floods, or search and rescue operations.Right now, aid organizations either send their rescuers to scenes in vehicles or charter expensive flights to get them there quicker.Because Garvey isn’t in business for a profit, he would charge passengers only enough to cover his fuel, oil and insurance costs, keeping his prices well below those of charter services.He estimates that for a 550-mile trip, the cost would run between $22.33 and $42.44 per person, per hour, depending on the type of plane he’s flying.Longtime Summit Rescue Group member Dan Burnett thinks Garvey’s proposed service is needed. “We get several calls a year where search and rescue people get called from one part of the country to another, so it could work,” Burnett said.Garvey thinks most of his work will come from wildland firefighters, who are deployed frequently all over the lower 48 states and Canada.

“It would be a little bit more expensive than driving, but they would be there sooner, be able to apply their skills quicker, be rested rather than driving 20 hours, and not have the risk of being killed on the road between Denver and wherever they need to be,” Garvey said.According to the U.S. Fire Administration, between 1984 and 2005, 20 to 25 percent of all firefighter fatalities a year occurred in motor vehicle accidents while fire personnel were responding to fires in privately-owned vehicles.

Garvey hopes to have his nonprofit up and running in the next year, but he has a few hurdles to pass first – funding being the biggest challenge.His goal is to raise $22 million to purchase several airplanes – including a state-of-the-art Cessna that will be the primary aircraft – hangar space and the ability to cover operational costs for 600 flight hours a year.He’s hoping to raise money from private donations, federal grants and corporate sponsorships.”I don’t care if these planes look like NASCAR with stickers all over it with corporate sponsorships as long as we can get the mission done because that’s my priority right there,” he said.Garvey has already signed on five volunteer pilots, and thinks he’ll eventually need about 30 more to run his operation. Garvey’s work schedule affords him one week off in a row, so he plans to be in the air as well on his days off, because for him, DARTS is “a calling.””This is more than a job. This is something I have to do, that I’ve kind of – especially since 9/11 – have always sought and it’s finally a time in my career, in my education, in my experience level that I can finally apply everything that I’ve learned,” he said.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO==========================================To learn moreFor more information logon to http://www.airresponseteam.com.==========================================

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