Florida Tech launches hurricane relief flights to Bahamas
Miguel Estremera strode toward the Florida Institute of Technology-owned Panther Navajo aircraft Thursday as volunteers lugged boxes of medical supplies, dehydrated food and diapers bound for the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas.
“Guys, this is a trial run for tomorrow. You’re going to have to roll quick. So this is the trial. And then on Saturday, when the DC-3 comes, it’s going to be mass. All right?” he announced.
Estremera, a 1998 Florida Institute of Technology aviation management graduate, co-piloted the first Bahamas relief flight aboard the Navajo, carrying about 1,500 pounds of supplies from Orlando Melbourne International Airport to Sandy Point on Great Abaco Island.
Brevard’s Relief for the Bahamas, a coalition including Florida Tech, ABC Supply of Central Florida, the Brevard County Clerk’s Office and other business partners, is collecting supplies at dozens of drop-off points from Titusville to Palm Bay.
More: Brevard residents plan Bahamas relief efforts with supply deliveries by planes, boats
“It’s the largest airplane we’ve got. Right now, it’s not even certain that flying to the Bahamas is that safe. So they’re planning on flying over. They have enough fuel. If they can’t get in because of whatever reason, they can come back,” Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay said.
“We’re going to make our first flight this afternoon. If that goes well, we’ll continue to fly all weekend,” McCay said.
“Some of the airspace has been designated as limited airspace. Some of the runways are probably no longer in operation. The Coast Guard’s just getting in there. So it will depend on the conditions in the Bahamas when they get there,” he said.
Off Aerospace Drive, Hangar 4A is serving as the donation drive’s hurricane supply warehouse. Wooden pallets bear boxes of first aid supplies, bug spray, tarps, canned green beans and tuna and the like.
“We did it for Maria. The Bahamas are our neighbors. And it’s the right thing to do,” Estremera said before takeoff. He flew Wednesday night from his home in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, to Melbourne to start piloting the Bahamas relief missions.
“Like I always say, this is what the United States is about. We help others,” he said.
Hangar 4A is located off Apollo Boulevard next to STS AeroMod, the hangar that hosted President Donald Trump‘s rallies in September 2016 and February 2017.
More: Florida Tech flight instructor to fly 1,300 pounds of supplies into hurricane damage zone
More: Florida Tech alum, actor spearhead relief mission to Puerto Rico
Where to donate
Brevard’s Relief for the Bahamas is collecting unopened non-perishable food, baby formula, baby wipes and diapers, gently used clothing and shoes, over-the-counter medications, pet food and hurricane supplies at these locations. For information, visit reliefforthebahamas.com
• Brevard County Clerk of Court, 790 South Park Ave.
• Beef O Brady’s, 2825 Garden St.
Port St. John
• Beef O Brady’s, 3745 Curtis Blvd.
• Harris Law Firm, 690 S. Courtenay Parkway
• RE/MAX Elite, 205 Parnell St.
• RE/MAX Elite, 4350 N. State Road A1A, Suite 4
• Jabber’s, 4365 Grissom Parkway
•ABC Supply Co., 605 Guss Hipp Blvd.
• Brevard County Clerk of Court, 2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
• RE/MAX Elite, 6022 Farcenda Place, Suite 101
• RE/MAX Elite, 445 Fifth Ave.
• ABC Supply Co., 2809 S. Harbor City Blvd.
• Brevard County Clerk of Court, 51 Nieman Ave.
• Better Insurance Group, 1580 N. Harbor City Blvd.
• Jessups of Melbourne, 912 E. New Haven Ave.
• Town and Country, 7300 Technology Drive
• Alfrey Roofing, 2015 Aurora Road, Suite A
• American Standard Insurance, 2015 Aurora Road, Suite B
• FrogBones Family Shooting Center, 404 S. Harbor City Blvd.
• Melbourne Regional Chamber, 1005 E. Strawbridge Ave.
• Melbourne All Suites Inn, 4455 W. New Haven Ave.
• Cinemaworld 16 Theater, 4345 W. New Haven Ave.
• Space Coast Association of Realtors, 2950 Pineda Plaza Way
• Coquina Ridge Animal Clinic, 4775 N. U.S. 1
• Brevard County Clerk of Court, 450 Cogan Drive
• RE/MAX Elite, 1155 Malabar Road, Suite 22
• Simply Southern Sweets, 1381 Heitzman Ave.
• Alpizar Law, 1528 Palm Bay Road
• Siggys American Bar, 1153 Malabar Road
• State Rep. Randy Fine, 2539 Palm Bay Road
Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RickNeale1