EVAC: the Emergency Volunteer Air Corpssm

Short Guide
Relief Efforts
The EMP Threat
Pilots' Tax Issues




An Abbreviated Aviation Operations Guide

Provided by the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps

Note:  this short faxable document was prepared based on EVAC guides and operational manuals in order to help in organizing volunteer pilots who wanted to provide assistance following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was sent to a number of the other Air Care Alliance member groups, most notably Angel Flight of Florida (now Angel Flight Southeast), whose volunteers used it in organizing missions and ferrying disaster workers and supplies in and out of the affected areas in Florida. It is quite suitable for any aviation relief effort which must be put together in a hurry, and we recommend that copies of it be maintained for the use of all members of airport associations, public benefit flying organizations, and other groups which might be called upon to provide assistance during emergency situations. 

However, we at EVAC strongly encourage individuals and groups to consider joining, or if necessary forming, a more structured and permanent emergency relief program for their area and airport, and stand ready to assist you in doing so.


During a major public emergency such as Hurricane Andrew emergency facilities become seriously overloaded. Because of lengthy delays in delivery of vital goods and services, needless additional deaths, permanent debilitating injuries, and loss of property can result. Well coordinated General Aviation volunteer pilots, operators, and support personnel can contribute significantly to emergency relief efforts, supplementing and complementing existing resources by using the extensive fleet of airplanes and helicopters and the highly trained pilots and other aviation personnel involved in General Aviation. Thus, every airport can serve as a new major resource providing disaster relief capabilities for the families and communities near it.

Most pilots have never had the opportunity to participate in an emergency airlift. For several years, the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps (EVAC) has been organizing General Aviation pilots for just this sort of duty. We have performed in actual emergency situations and have conducted numerous practice exercises. So that you will not have to "re-invent the wheel," we offer the following suggestions in the hope of making it easier for you. We do not suggest that this is the only way to accomplish the end result and it is certainly not a comprehensive "how-to" manual. Rather it is simply a list of factors that experience tells us need to be addressed in order to become an efficient, super-successful emergency airlift operation.

Getting the Pilots and Planes

Organizing pilots into an effective emergency relief "air force" is generally a matter of calling them up and asking if they would be available for this kind of mission, or arranging for a broadcast appeal to pilots. The positive response is typically overwhelming. Getting volunteers is the easy part in the immediate aftermath of a real disaster - the need for help is so obvious and the scope of the catastrophe is so mind-boggling. Intelligent use of the volunteers is the challenge.

Getting the Missions

The powerful potential of General Aviation will be wasted unless there are appropriate tasks to perform. In order for this to happen, you will usually find it highly advisable to be a part of the Emergency Management Team in the local area. If the official EM representatives don't know who you are and what you can do, they will never think to call upon you. If they don't call on you, you may have no missions to perform. Sometimes you will encounter temporary airspace restrictions which can't be overcome unless you have some measure of official "clout."

Worse than that, if you somehow begin operations without some kind of official sanction, you may find out that your good intentions are misinterpreted and unwelcome.

By contrast, if you are part of the official team, your help will be enthusiastically welcomed and utilized. Many states have even made provisions to cover Volunteer Disaster Workers with workers compensation insurance and put them under the state's liability insurance umbrella and/or various Good Samaritan protections.

There will be someone in charge of the overall relief operation, possibly at County or State level. What you are looking for is the agency that coordinates the various emergency response resources; the clearing house for incoming and outgoing information as to what is being done and who is doing it.

Obviously they will be swamped and you will have to be prepared to quickly state your business and tell them what you can do for them. Below you will find a partial listing of a some of the most obvious missions for which General Aviation people and equipment would be especially well suited. With your intimate knowledge of the local situation, you can surely add to it.

You may find that you can't give this service away. You may have to sell it. If the first bureaucrat you contact doesn't take you up on your offer, try another. If necessary try a different agency within the emergency management system. For example, sometimes the Red Cross representative can help with an introduction to the appropriate person(s) or maybe you will have to go to the local politician who has responsibility for the emergency response system. Just be careful not to bend any egos along the way. Sooner or later you will find someone who will welcome the additional resources. Note that you can show officials the section in the FAA Advisory Circular 00-7C ("SARDA - State and Regional Disaster Airlift") that acknowledges the value of GA in relief efforts.

It is possible that through amateur radio or other independent contacts you may identify needs that are being unfulfilled by the official relief agencies. In that case volunteers must determine that their help will not conflict with any emergency decrees or interfere with any authorized relief efforts. In ALL cases, relief efforts must be conducted safely and follow all laws and Federal Aviation Regulations. Note also that operations conducted independent of the official relief agencies will have none of the liability or workmen's compensation protections provided to authorized emergency service volunteers.

General Aviation Capabilities During Emergencies

Experience gained during many disasters, including the 1989 San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake, has shown that General Aviation pilots and aircraft owners using their resources and skills for the benefit of their communities in the wake of a disaster can greatly speed their community's recovery.

Sometimes able to operate when other transportation facilities are disabled or destroyed, General Aviation volunteers can transport emergency service workers, medical personnel, vital supplies, and injured victims, supplementing the medevac and airlift capabilities of the armed forces, the national guard, commercial and volunteer medical transportation groups, and other support groups such as the Civil Air Patrol and the Sheriffs' Aero Squadrons.

General Aviation pilots and equipment are especially suited to certain operations such as the following:

- Highly trained G.A. pilots, who often have prior military or emergency service experience, can provide essential help in helping rebuild damaged airports and aviation facilities, assisting the FAA in re-establishing Air Traffic Control Services, and operating airports, including providing vital administrative and security functions.

- G.A. aircraft can transport regular and supplemental emergency service workers such as police and fire personnel and also critical emergency management personnel into a stricken community which may be isolated because of disrupted ground transportation.

- Light planes and even ultralight aircraft can provide critical damage assessment information through flying observation and photography missions. Even carrying news personnel can bring back pictures and video which can be useful both to the emergency services management teams and in informing the greater community about the extent of damage. This can free up helicopters, too.

- G.A. planes can evacuate non-critical injury cases and patients with chronic medical conditions that would add to the workload of already overburdened medical and rescue personnel or might go untreated and unattended in the local area.

- Smaller aircraft can transport the specific supplies and equipment needed directly to the affected communities, reducing the need for ground transportation and on-site distribution during the frantic circumstances of an actual emergency situation.

- Helicopters, ultralights, and STOL aircraft can operate safely from fields and roadways near isolated communities. These types of aircraft could bring medical supplies and personnel to stranded areas where normal airports are unavailable or unusable.

- The large number of General Aviation aircraft and pilots now widely dispersed throughout the region will be able to transport large numbers of individuals directly to hundreds of smaller hospitals, clinics, or shelter facilities throughout the adjoining states and bring in individual relief personnel and necessary supplies from those non-centralized locations.

- Use of the existing General Aviation airports would also preclude the necessity of transporting, on the ground, large numbers of victims far from their local communities to hub airports. Instead, they would be able to use the services of a nearby small airport; one that is less likely to have suffered serious damage or disruption.

Scope of Your Offer to Help

It may be important to stress the fact that you are not trying to do anything that is already being done by someone else. This is a new idea for many of the established agencies and some of them are very jealous of their "turf." You may need to make it clear that you are not, for example, trying to put the Civil Air Patrol, the Air National Guard, the Sheriff's Aero Squadron, or any commercial providers out of business. On the contrary, you are offering to help by augmenting these and other existing emergency services because you are aware that they are spread impossibly thin. The services you offer are just not available from any other source or that other source is so swamped that their personnel will welcome your help.

In providing your help, it is extremely important to make continuous assessments of the appropriateness of the services your volunteers wish to provide. For example, sending a light twin with a few hundred pounds of water might be wasteful unless the water were desperately needed; and even then it might be wiser to transport water purification tablets and filtration equipment, making it possible to generate far more water in the long run. You will be faced with an almost infinite number of such cost/benefit decisions, and it is important to try to maintain some perspective.

The desire to assist is very powerful and can be seductive and misleading. Always try to keep end objectives and appropriate strategy in mind.

Actual Operations

Although the end product is air operations and incidental support, to intelligently utilize aircraft requires much ground coordination.

Communications - You must know what or who is to be transported and to where. If the telephones are operational, ground communications are relatively simple. Someone will, however need to take charge of this vital function and establish two-way communications with the governmental "lead" agency and radio links between the aircraft and the command post or base of operations.

One person at the agency should be in contact with one person on the ground at the airport. All requests for services are routed through these two people. Requests for service are then routed to whoever is in charge of air operations. (This might be the same person but the more help you get, the better it works.)

Try to get an FBO or airport office to give you a place on their ramp and/or in their office to set up a temporary command post. You will need some place to do some paperwork and to spread out charts, etc. If you can get them to temporarily dedicate one of their phones for your emergency use, it will be a tremendous advantage. If not, then maybe someone has a cellular phone that can be used for the most critical land-line communications. Note that pay phones are by design often operating when others have been shut off.

If the phones are inoperative, aircraft band VHF radio on the search-and-rescue frequency (123.1) may be usable, especially if a communications picket aircraft is orbiting at altitude as a radio relay station. Obviously this is subject to line-of-sight limitations and possible frequency congestion considerations. Ham radio is sometimes the only way to communicate under the most adverse conditions. Typically the Amateur Radio (Ham) community is enthusiastic about helping an emergency airlift group with their equipment and expertise. EVAC finds amateur radio to be an invaluable part of our communications infrastructure and strongly encourages early and strong links to the amateur radio community.

Ground Operations and Coordination - If you are using a tower controlled airport, it is a very good idea to contact the tower manager and staff and tell them what is going on. Their help will make your job (and theirs) a lot easier. You also may be called upon to assist in re-establishing or providing ATC services.

If you do not have pre-established relations with airport management, do so at first opportunity. Extra and non-flying volunteers will be essential in helping survey on- and off-airport damage and determining if the airport and all its facilities are useable. Others can assist in briefing and directing VIP visitors and the media, allowing the overburdened airport staff to perform their critical functions.

Ask the FBO's for any thing you need including, but not limited to, a discount on the fuel being used for the airlift and even discounted rates on aircraft rental for those volunteers who don't own their own plane. It doesn't cost to ask and most of them want to help as much as you do.

A large airlift using small planes means a lot of traffic on the ramp and a lot of people around those aircraft, some of whom are not airplane people. Protect them!

Safety is the absolute first priority! You must be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Someone must direct traffic and set the safety ground rules for such things as bringing the cargo or passengers to the staging area on the ramp, loading and fueling the planes, and ramp ingress/egress for the aircraft.

Air Operations - Someone needs to translate the requests for transportation services into flights; matching planes and pilots to missions. The first thing needed is a sign-in sheet that shows at least the pilot's name, aircraft model, and useful load.

This same "someone" or his helper should make a list of the pilots and plane numbers that are dispatched, their cargo, destination, and ETA. The flight should report arrival at the destination and inquire as to any other mission that could be accomplished on the return flight. This can be done as soon as the destination airport is in sight, on the ground or after takeoff on the return leg. You will want to know where all your air assets are and their readiness status for planning purposes.

After return, there are good reasons to debrief the pilot. For example, if the weather is changing, the condition of the destination airport is questionable or any other pertinent information is needed. If it is a reconnaissance mission, you will need to then relay the observations back to the controlling agency. If it is a cargo or personnel transport mission, the managers will want to be kept up to date on your progress.

Don't forget to keep records of all the flights. After the emergency has been dealt with and the dust settles, there may be a way to recover some, if not all, of the fuel costs. You will probably want the information anyway for post disaster thanks and publicity purposes, or at least to claim any allowable tax deduction for the costs you incurred.

One more time, Safety! Your pilots must not fall into the trap of compromising their personal minimums or in any way cut corners on safety. Calculate and re-calculate weight and balance, and stay at least 100 pounds under gross, and more if runway length or density altitude demands it. It is not necessarily true, under all conditions, that "this plane will lift any thing you can stuff through the door." Your missions, although vitally important, are not of a nature that should require or encourage heroic efforts. Fly the mission just as you always fly: safely and conservatively.

Remember also that the FAR's forbid use of aircraft for non-ambulatory medical transport unless certified for it and equipped with the proper crew. Leave emergency medical transportation to the experts. On the other hand, ambulatory patients not needing in-flight medical attention can fly in a plane, providing a doctor has certified they will suffer no adverse effects from altitude or other factors related to the flight.


A word of caution. Unfortunately, the best of intentions can go awry. Even when everything is done perfectly and all possible precautions are observed, things can happen which are beyond the control of the persons involved. Good Samaritans still get sued. Because of this unfortunate fact of life, it is strongly suggested that a waiver of liability be required from any passenger before the flight leaves. The included "Waiver of Liability" was created for the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps. You may find it usable for your own purposes by simply changing the references to Emergency Volunteer Air Corps and/or EVAC to your own organization's name.

Final Notes - This information is a very condensed guide with a few of the ideas and guidelines contained in various Operational Manuals developed by different Chapters of the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, including EVAC's National Guidelines Manual. We intend to provide updates and supplements. We grant permission for this material to be copied and distributed widely as noted below, but to make sure you have the latest information please provide your group's name, contact people, addresses, phone numbers, and fax number to our office. Contact information is available at www.evac.org. We will fax or send additional information as we get it.

In addition, EVAC wants to provide every assistance possible to any other groups involved in G.A. airlift activities. Please call us if you have any questions or can't seem to solve some problem. Through EVAC's own network and that of the other members of the national Air Care Alliance of public benefit flying groups, we may be able to provide you the information, assistance, or contacts you need!

Copyright and Permission to Copy - Copyright 1992 - 2012 Emergency Volunteer Air Corps. Permission granted for individuals or groups to copy and distribute this material for non-profit and/or volunteer public benefit purposes, provided that document origin, authorship, and this entire notice is included on all copies. See usage notice on EVAC Main Page.  


Version date: July 25, 1999

(1) Emergency Volunteer Air Corps (EVAC) which is a non-commercial, non-profit, volunteer public service organization and its volunteer pilot(s):

________________________________ and ____________________________ hereby agree to provide the following passenger(s):

________________________________ and ____________________________ with air transportation, free of charge, for the convenience of the passenger(s) to assist in the following operation(s):



(2) In consideration for receiving this air transportation free of charge, I agree to hold harmless EVAC and its volunteer pilot(s) from any and all liability, including but not limited to liability for negligence, for any personal injury or property damage I might suffer and for any wrongful death action which my estate might otherwise bring arising out of such injury, while I am a passenger on the aircraft provided by EVAC or its volunteers and operated by affiliated pilot(s).

(3) I understand it is my sole and exclusive responsibility to purchase any flight or accident insurance should I desire to be insured on this flight.  

(4) In the event any portion of this contract is held invalid, the remaining portions shall remain in full force and effect.

(5) As evidenced by my (our) signature(s) below, I have read this agreement in its entirety and agree to its terms.

            _______________________________ Signature, Passenger #1

            _______________________________ Print Name

            _______________________________ Street Address

            _______________________________ City, State, Zip

            _______________________________ Date

            _______________________________ Signature, Passenger #2

            _______________________________ Print Name

            _______________________________ Street Address

            _______________________________ City, State, Zip

            _______________________________ Date


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