Improving California’s disaster resilience through general aviation

CalDART, The California DART Network, is building a statewide network of local Disaster Airlift Response Teams (DARTs) to improve California’s disaster resilience in the face of earthquakes, floods, mudslides and other events which may impair regional surface transportation. DARTs utilize a common operating model and are located at airports around the state. CalDART is a wholly owned subsidiary of the The California Pilot Association – Membership in CalDART includes membership in CalPilots. DARTs provide logistics options for impacted communities, helping emergency managers, organizations, and citizens who are trying to move people or supplies into or out of a disaster zone. CalDART helps make California safer and less miserable during disasters, provides pilots one more way to engage in their love of flying, and helps make communities become more attached to their airports. Every pilot in the state can participate, improving California’s disaster resilience. CalDART allows general aviation relief efforts to spool up faster after the occurrence of an event, allows local communities to have better access to available air transportation services, and allows a wider variety of relief operations to be conducted, all in a safer, managed operating environment.

Mission Statement:

CalDART organizes California pilots and ground personnel to provide volunteer disaster air transportation services to benefit communities experiencing a major earthquake, flood, or other disaster.

Conops (Concept of Operations):

The California DART Network (CalDART) consists of a volunteer Board of Directors leading a statewide group of volunteer DART Operators and DART Supporters at various airports. The DART Operator is a DART which conducts practice mobilization exercises once per year and which has been accepted by The California DART Network. The DART Operator consists of pilots and administrative staff who together organize and provide free air transportation during an emergency under Part 91 flight rules.  The DART Operator encourages Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) and local city and county emergency managers to participate with them in their practice exercises. DART Operators can request Mutual Aid from other DART Operators and from CalDART members and friends around the state. 

In a DART, volunteer pilots do what they already know how to do – fly from one airport to another and give people or things a ride. A variety of other DART volunteers guided by a DART Incident Commander, a Flight Operations Manager, a Materiel Manager, a Ramp Manager, and a Recruitment Manager assemble the team, take in flight requests, weigh the cargo, assign materiel and passengers to be transported on specific aircraft, maintain safety, help pilots load, and so on.  Air transportation services can include:

  • Air commute services between homes and places of work for disaster workers
  • Movement of emergency workers, medical staff, and medicines into the area
  • Large scale food airlift into the area
  • Transfer of displaced individuals and families to distant locations where they have family or friends who can care for them
  • Movement of ambulatory medical patients to out-of-area facilities
  • Relocation of nursing home residents to out-of-area facilities who can care for them
  • Reservoir and levee reconnaissance, search and rescue, aerial photography (backup to Civil Air Patrol)

Volunteer general aviation has consistently contributed to disaster response efforts in California over the years. For a wonderful 6-minute summary of how general aviation fit into the total disaster response after the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, watch this 6 minute video documentary. Some of DART’s original developers participated in this airlift:

The California DART Network has no paid employees, is registered with the California Secretary of State as a public benefit corporation organized under Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law for charitable purposes with IRS EIN 831 407 209. Donations, gifts, bequests, devises, and transfers qualify as tax deductible to a public charity under IRC 501(c)(3) and sections 170, 2055, 2106, and 2522 under the determination letter from the IRS to The California DART Network dated October 25, 2018. Please donate here. For current status on how many DART Operators there are, and how many airports have CalDART members, read the CalDART Network Overview.