June 2, 2022

Preparations for joining Operation Thunder

Jon Robinson

— Text and photos provided by BC AERO

Saturday April 23 was a busy day at the office for BC AERO. The work shop and hangars of the WEST COAST PILOT’S CLUB at the Langley airport were filled with volunteers and guests. This was the site for the first ever training session for members of the BC Airlift Emergency response Operation hosted by Sean Heaps, President of BC AERO and led by Sigmund B. Sort, Chief Preparedness Officer. The day also included a well-attended Open House where guests toured the facility and met the volunteers.

Volunteer pilots spent the Saturday learning what and who BC AERO is, what has been accomplished and what will be expected of them as participants when the big one occurs. The day long sessions covered a range of need to know items from pilot qualifications to cross border requirements.

A hands on session that included loading and unloading an aircraft with emphasis on safety as well as weight and balance and gross weight concerns rounded out the day. Experienced staff from the November event provided the expertise.

All of this effort was in preparation for the first international cross border disaster exercise to be held in cooperation with “Operation Thunder” planned for Saturday, June 18. The Washington based DART and California Cal DART groups will be testing their ability to respond to a simulated tsunami by flying supplies and personnel across Washington State in a dawn to dusk operation. BC AERO’s contribution will be their “real time” experience responding to the 2021 disaster in Southern BC

Canadian pilots will be flying from Langley to Bellingham and beyond carrying some 30,000 pounds of donated emergency food stocks to Washington State. This requires the coordination and cooperation with not only customs officials on both sides of the border but the FAA and Transport Canada.