SLO charter air company helping to evacuate people out of Haiti

Le Bas International, a San Luis Obispo aircraft charter company, is helping people desperate to evacuate Haiti after its cataclysmic earthquake this week.

"Emergency disaster and relief flying is one of the things we're good at," said Tracey Deakin, who has been chief operating office of Le Bas for 20 years. "For instance, we were one of the first people to help in aftermath of the tsunami in Samoa and helped with the hurricane Katrina as well. It makes me feel good and helps me sleep at night."

Le Bas flew 14 people out of Haiti on Thursday. It was one of the first flights to get out of the country, Deakin said.

"We had to get around no air traffic control, no personnel on the ground, no communication, fuel contamination - all the hazards of going into the disaster area," Deakin said.

Le Bas, which also has offices in Ireland, had to first find a private jet that was already in Haiti and then coordinated a complex plan in which aircraft flew the evacuees to the Dominican Republic. From there, the passengers were transferred to another private jet that took them to Miami, said Eamon Lacy, Le Bas' operations controller.

No commercial flights had been able to leave or come into Haiti because the air traffic control tower and runway lights are not operating after the earthquake, Lacy added.

Le Bas is hoping to coordinate dozens more flights into and out of the country this next week, Deakin and Lacy said.

--Melanie Cleveland