SARA hosted 40 evacuated aircraft

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, September 19, 2017

South Alabama Regional Airport wound up being a safe haven for 40 aircraft fleeing South and Central Florida as Hurricane Irma approached last week.

SARA Executive Director Jed Blackwell said there were 88 people who came with the planes, and they were able to find housing for them.

They also sold more than 1,000 gallons of fuel as a result of this as well as 150 gallons fuel for aircraft flying through.

He said there were DC-3s, King Airs and small helicopters on site.

“We are in the FAA database as an evacuation hangar for South and Central Florida,” he said. “The West Palm Beach Flight School rented the Hickory Ridge Lodge.”

He said the storm definitely had an economic impact locally.

John Roberts, a local pilot who regularly attends the SARA board meeting, said he went to talk to Blackwell about putting on a website that the airport was available for evacuees and he said that Blackwell already pretty much had the airport full of evacuees.

“I want to commend him for that,” Roberts said.

Board member Donald Barton, also a pilot, said it was well-organized.

“The staff did a great job,” he said. “Especially landing that many aircraft one behind the other.”