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Hurricane Relief Stories - Part 2 - Bill Steele

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Bill Steele

Bill Steele is a developer and a skilled presenter on our MSDN team.  He is also a former military pilot and currently owns one or two small planes. 

Recently he was given the okay to take some time off to help out in the hurricane Katrina relief efforts.  A couple days ago he sent this email update to the rest of us on the team:

Well... Today is the first day of Internet access since I started this adventure.
 
I'm flying out of Baton Rouge International... and have so far moved enough meals to feed about 6000 people.  When I say meal, I mean MRE... Meal, Ready to Eat.  I've been reacquainting myself to them as well... wow... I forgot how good some of them were.  I've also been delivering bottled water and some medical supplies.  My plane can handle about 700 meals with a bottle of water each and a couple boxes of medicines each trip.  (That puts me slightly over gross, but who's counting - we do remove the meals from the cardboard boxes to lighten the load a bit... and I only get about 50 gallons of fuel - since each trip is less then 1 hour.)
 
Anyway, I've had to stop for a little while while some maintenance on my plane is done... I lost the left mag on the left engine on my last take off .  The maintenance staff over at "Million Aire" are fixing me up no charge... that's very cool.
 
I have to tell you, most of my flights have been to the lower part of Mississippi which was just hammered.  I flew into one airport that was so badly damaged that I literally landed on an access road, because the runway didn't exist.  The control tower actually fell over from the wind.  It's a real mess in some places.  I did a small tour of the coast line for some damage assessment purposes (I've had relief coordinators with me on every flight) and it's just shocking to see the magnitude of the damage.  I've lived through some pretty bad tornados at home and the damage looks similar, but it's just so much more massive.  Tornados cut paths... there's no paths down here... just destruction everywhere.
 
Anyway, the food deliveries are actually winding down because either the people are leaving or they now have "ground transportation of goods" which means that I'll move into a new type of role shuttling medical supplies and people.  (I removed the seats from my plane so we're going to have to reinstall them as well.)  There are about 50 planes doing this work... and we're all running about 6 or 7 trips a day.  We've got good sleeping quarters... a nearby Holiday Inn Select hotel and plenty of food... when I get hungry, I was just stealing an MRE.  The best so far is the Chili Mac... nice and spicy.  I'm getting ready to enjoy a Boneless Pork Chop dinner right now, however... you guessed it... it's an MRE as well.
 
By the way... I see we're sending down the MSAM Buses... that's very cool!  The thing this is really lacking down here is communications... nothing works.  I'm currently using a US National Guard mobile communications van for this access - it's actually a Humvee with a bunch of antennas on it.  We get to use it for about 1 hour a day (when it's available.)
 
Oh well... I'll let you know the progress the next time I can. 
 
Bill

Bill also wanted me to mention that if you want to help him and other pilots like him who are volunteering so much of their time and resources there are ways to do that:

One of the biggest questions is "How can I help?"  Well, it's simple... each flight costs roughly $200 just for the fuel alone.  I am flying for an organization called "Angel Flights" which normally shuttles sick kids to hospitals on available seats... however, during this we're also shipping food/supplies.  Angel Flights is part of a larger organization called the Air Care Alliance (ACA.)  ACA handles all the funding for all kinds of aircraft related relief efforts.  You can go to their site at http://aircarall.org and donate (I recommend that if [you're a Microsoft Employee, and] you donate to them, please do it via the Microsoft resources... that way we double the money going to them.)  You can also donate directly to Angel Flights at http://www.angelflightamerica.org.

My hat’s off to you, Bill.  You make us all extremely proud.

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