SLO jet company helping in 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 officer of Le Bas for 20 years. “For instance, we were one of the first people to help in the aftermath of the (2004 Asian) tsunami … and helped with 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 had to first find a private jet that was already in Haiti and then coordinate a complex plan in which the 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 of more flights into and out of the country next week, Deakin and Lacy said.