Masks, Masks, and More Masks

By Mike Davenport, EAA 89102, Langley, British Columbia

  • Whatcom County DART (Disaster Airlift Response Team)
  • West Coast General Aviation Response Plan
  • EVAC (Emergency Volunteer Air Corps)
  • BC AERO (British Columbia Airlift Emergency Response Operations)

What do all these groups have in common? Their prime mission is be prepared to help others in the event of some kind of disaster in the Pacific Northwest and to do that requires both preparation and training.

Back in the day, Shaun B. Heaps and Sigmund Bering Sort of BC AERO connected with Sky Terry of Whatcom County DART and because of those meetings, a practice exercise called Thunder Run was held in early July 2022 with BC AERO delivering several thousand pounds of food products to the Bellingham, Washington, airport.

Some of the crew involved in the event

Discussions were subsequently held about the desire of Washington-based pilots to do a similar practise run into Langley to learn the requirements of Nav Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). To provide products to carry, some 240,000 medical masks were obtained and a quick check of the weights determined that a likely load for a General Aviation Aircraft would be 5,000 to 6,000 masks. Weight and balance considerations were not an issue, but space was and so every nook and cranny would be filled. Aircraft would load at the Skajit/Bayview, Washington, airport with some Canadian pilots participating. eAPIS filings and flight plans would be mandatory due to the two border crossings for each trip. Originally there were to be five legs in each round trip. For example: Langley to Bellingham for customs, Bellingham to Bayview for the load, Bayview to Abbotsford for customs, and lastly to Langley to off load. However, U.S. Customs were very cooperative and agreed to place people at Bayview which allowed flights direct from Langley, eliminating one leg completely with significant savings of both time and fuel.

A busy operation in progress

CBSA at Abbotsford are only able to be on site Monday to Friday between 8 and 4 each day. Unfortunately, they have no staffing allocation to cover weekend work. This reduced the number of aircraft that were available due to the need for those pilots who are not yet retired to earn a living. The first day selected was February 15, a Wednesday with fingers crossed regarding the weather. After all, it is February on the “Wet Coast” with a better than even chance of rain on any given day. As it turned out the weather was severe VFR and a very successful day for all.

At an estimated two hours per round trip, assuming an early start, the day would allow four trips per aircraft and require between 10 to 12 aircraft to get the job done. During the planning stages, five U.S. and five Canadian aircraft were scheduled. These included two C-170s, a pristine Bonanza, several C-172s, a C-182, and even an amateur-built RV-4 proving conclusively “where there is a will, there is a way.” During the day, 12 loads were brought into Langley resulting in a total of 210,000 masks now on hand.

Plane loaded with some of those 210,000 masks

That begs the question: now what? One thought was that anyone that wants to come and pick some up are welcome to take as many as they can want.

To arrange a pickup, contact Shaun B Heaps:

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