Volunteer pilots fly safety equipment to Washington tribes in need

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — A group of pilots airlifted personal protective equipment (PPE) Thursday afternoon to remote Native American tribes in Washington.

Volunteers from Eastern Washington’s Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) said they’ve been helping nearly a dozen tribes since December.

“Our organization responds to emergencies by bringing needed supplies, equipment and sometimes people to areas where they’re needed,” said team lead William Herrington.

DART was created in 2009 in preparation for The Big One.

“In an earthquake or tsunami scenario, roads would be inaccessible to move supplies, food, medicines, things like that so that’s what we’re here for,” Herrington said. “In this pandemic, Native American tribes have had an acute shortage of those things until they had a big donor that supplied a lot of goods.”

Volunteers fly to different bases in Washington where they load up tons of boxes filled with hand sanitizer, masks, soap and more.

One of those volunteers is United Airlines pilot Ken Turpen, who uses his own plane that he built to fly the goods out.

“We all love flying anyway, all of us pilots,” Turpen said. “It’s fantastic to be able to do something that is so beneficial for somebody. It’s a great way to use your aircraft and help out.”

Herrington agreed, noting that “it’s awesome to be a part.”

“They get the supplies to where they need to go,” Herrington said. “In some cases we know it’s saving lives, it’s that important.”

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