The Evolution of DART

Research and first experiences

The idea of organizing a DART was first discussed by the South County Airport Pilot Association (SCAPA) Board of Directors in 2008. After SCAPA struggled for a year in how to approach this issue, Rod Pharis took over the project and began an extensive research and writing project. He researched available aviation disaster preparedness information from CalPilots, the FAA, FEMA, and other sources. He authored the first Disaster Airlift Response Plan (DARP) draft and was joined by Paul Marshall in the editing cycle. Rod presented the DARP at the initial Disaster Airlift Response Team table top training session in June of 2011. The plan underwent further development, was reissued, and then a first practice mobilization was conducted in November, 2013.

AOPA Foundation and Northrop Grumman Grants

After further development, the DARP was reissued as version 2.0. Outside organizations began to take notice, and in 2014, the SCAPA DART was awarded $10,000 from the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Foundation and $5000 from the Northrop Grumman Corporation to assist us in acquiring needed capital equipment and supplies.

A Second DART Forms

In 2014 the state’s second DART went operational, the Watsonville Emergency Airlift Command Team, WEACT. The people of WEACT had been interested in disaster preparedness ever since they participated in the Watsonville Lifeline Airlift after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.  The seized upon the Disaster Airlift Response Plan as a good way to provide structure to disaster airlifts.

CalPilots affiliates with DART

In October 2015, Paul Marshall presented the DART concept at the CalPilots Annual Conference. CalPilots has member chapters all over the state, and Paul was from the South County Airport Pilots Association subchapter. Several people in the statewide organization were interested in following up, including CalPilots President Corl Leach and Vice President Region 5 Edward Story. In February 2016, DART was presented to the CalPilots Board and the CalPilots DART affiliation began.

FEMA Recognition and adding 2 more DARTs

In 2017 FEMA recognized the SCAPA DART by awarding it two Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. In 2017 the Santa Monica Airport Association and Half Moon Bay Airport Pilot Association DARTs went active with a total of 3 exercises.

CalDART is born

In March 2018 The CalPilots Board of Directors voted to incorporate The California DART Network as a wholly owned subsidiary, and named Paul Marshall and Edward Story as the incorporating Directors. 7 additional directors joined the initial two directors over the subsequent months, and the basic tasks of incorporation were completed leading to public announcement in August of 2018. In August 2018 The California DART Network featured DARTs at San Martin, Watsonville, Half Moon Bay, and Santa Monica, with active DART formation efforts underway at Lincoln Regional, Santa Rosa, and San Jose Reid Hillview airports, and additional CalDART supporters located at Vacaville, Concord, Angwin, Sacramento Executive, Santa Barbara, Livermore, Napa, Gnoss, and Upland airports.

External Relations and Coverage

Over the years, DART has been featured in AOPA media several times, has appeared in 2 Oshkosh EAA AirVenture seminars, and has been affiliated with EVAC efforts ongoing in the Air Care Alliance. Recently numerous counties in the Puget Sound area of Washington State have begun to incorporate DART into their emergency plans and preparedness exercises. Washington State DART has also innovated in the use of seaplanes and in acute medical transportation, and recently incorporated the support of the Washington Pilot Association.

Pandemics and Fires Help Grow CalDART Into 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Fires made for the busiest year yet for CalDART in 2020 into 2021. Our DART count grew to 12 DARTs around the state, with CalDART members in a total of 58 airports. During the pandemic CalDART pilots shipped donated face shields and face masks to service providers all around the west coast. Our first call for assistance was from the county of Walla Walla Washington, where the Department of Emergency Management badly wanted face shields and we were able to airlift a load from a donor in Redwood City to the county who picked them up at their local airport – see the article here. We helped organize the building of emergency use ventilators which were donated by San Diego to the City of Tijuana to help with a bad COVID outbreak in the Tijuana River Valley. In September, the west started heating up with wildfires breaking out everywhere, and we organized an airlift shipping a couple of tons of donated supplies from Direct Relief in Santa Barbara CA to Reach Out World Wide in Eugene Oregon. See the video here. Finally as we rolled into the New Year for 2021 we answered the call of the National Tribal Emergency Management Council and arranged flights of donated PPE from Direct Relief in Santa Barbara CA to the Yurok Indian Tribe on the lower Klamath River, flying their gear into the Crescent City airport.

CalDART Becomes an Independent Corporation Jan 1, 2022

As CalDART grew and became more complex, it became harder and harder to mesh the operations of CalPilots and CalDART, especially with both organizations operating on purely volunteer labor and time. The leadership of both organizations began spending time on interorganizational issues and sometimes working at cross purposes. They recognized their time would be better spent each focusing on their core issues. In late 2021 CalPilots and CalDART reached an agreement to divest CalDART as an independent 501(c)3 corporation, and on January 1, 2022, CalDART was independent and no longer a part of CalPilots. CalDART thanked CalPilots for helping it through significant start up challenges and for publicizing CalDART to its CalPilots members, and CalPilots thanked CalDART for helping expand its membership.