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Delivering US Humanitarian Aid

The USA has been delivering humanitarian aid for decades, but where does aircraft charter come in?

There’s a long and storied history of the USA providing aid during humanitarian crises to countries around the world. Whether conducting flight rescue operations, delivering humanitarian aid, or coordinating World Food Program (WFP) airdrops, aid delivery has been at the forefront of the American global presence for decades. How do these sometimes far-flung and remote operations get off the ground, though?

Often, the involvement of air cargo charter companiesallows governments to have a presence in areas where they’re otherwise light on the ground – or in the air, in this case. Humanitarian air cargo charters have enabled some of the most successful relief efforts in history to go ahead, demonstrating the clear value offered by this synergistic partnership to all parties – and, most crucially, to the people receiving aid.

This article will look at some key examples of US humanitarian support to highlight the role of air cargo charter services. Focusing on the role of humanitarian aid air cargo charter in the case of US relief efforts is a particularly effective way to highlight their importance – after all, the USA is the world leader in providing humanitarian aid. If humanitarian air cargo charters are routinely employed by the US government, then who are we to contradict their endorsement!



Perhaps the most obvious example is the one that’s currently dominating the global news cycle. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 prompted a humanitarian catastrophe that caused a surge in relief efforts. Chief among these has been the response of the US via USAID, the “world’s premier international development agency” and the official humanitarian response department of the US government.

In the case of Ukraine, this response consisted of the rapid delivery of a wide array of aid – including food, medicine, and other desperately needed supplies. Naturally, this was not a humanitarian response that could afford to linger, and so time-critical air cargo charter was required. Thanks to the work of a number of cargo air charter providers, this air supply drop got where it was most needed with minimal delay, providing a perfect example of the synergy between aid services and the air charter service cargo sector and, crucially, saving lives.

Haiti Earthquake

The Haitian earthquake in 2010 dominated global affairs and caused horror around the world. It’s clear to see why: around 220,000 people were reported to have been killed, with a further 300,000 injured and over 1.5 million left homeless. The massive scale of destruction caused by this event saw USAID thrust into action alongside the UN, the Red Cross, and other humanitarian aid organizations from around the world.

The scale of the US response to Haiti, naturally, was enormous, involving the provision of shelter materials to over 1.5 million people, daily drinking water to 1.3 million, and employment for over 350,000. Such a huge humanitarian relief effort could not be conducted without the help of external air charter service cargo providers – and in this case, their help had to be on a similar scale.

It was in this context that air cargo charter company Chapman Freeborn conducted over 100 chartered humanitarian flights to and from Haiti, delivering critical supplies and playing a key role in the day-to-day operation of relief efforts. This represents another key component of the relationship between aid services and air cargo charter providers: logistics. Far from simply providing aircraft for hire, the aid cargo charter response often involves operations being conducted on the ground by highly qualified personnel dispatched from the air cargo charter service to assist in the day-to-day detail.

Chilean Earthquake

The 2010 Chilean earthquake resulted in over 500 deaths and left a trail of devastation in its wake, damaging over 200,000 homes and affecting as many as 2,000,000 Chileans. This required humanitarian responses from around the world, and the US was no exception, providing over $10,000,000 in aid and other relief efforts. The response of the US government was not conducted in isolation, though: cargo help was required, necessitating the involvement of air freight shipping providers.

Air cargo charter providers played a key role in the time-critical delivery of much-needed humanitarian supplies to Santiago, helping to ensure that the US response was well-equipped and facilitated in its relief efforts. This cargo, including water purification units, aided in disaster relief efforts and again provides a succinct case study on the benefits of the synergy between humanitarian aid and air cargo charter services.


Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan, or Super Typhoon Yolanda as it’s known in the Philippines, struck south-east Asia in November 2013. One of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, most of its destruction centred on the aforementioned archipelago, where it’s estimated to have killed over 8,000 people and affected more than 16 million – whether through destruction of property, displacement, or injury. The USAID response to this natural disaster was again swift, involving the provision of over $90,000,000 worth of aid and basic shelter, cooking equipment, and blankets to around 2.5 million people.

Again, Chapman Freeborn was involved, delivering aid and humanitarian supplies to Mactan-Cebu and Manila airports on a range of charter aircraft and helping those affected by large-scale devastation. This operation picked up pace, soon involving the delivery of over 2,000 tons of aid cargo via a wide array of aircraft, including objects such as medicine, water purifiers, and generators. The cumulative nature of this operation reflects the reality of humanitarian air cargo charter efforts: often, initial responses snowball into much bigger operations, requiring air cargo charter providers to possess the flexibility and capability to scale up their services.

Sri Lanka Floods

In 2011, floods and landslides in Sri Lanka left around 200,000 people displaced in temporary shelters, with an estimated 1 million affected overall. USAID’s involvement in humanitarian relief efforts saw the provision of millions of dollars of relief funds and over 4,000 tons of food, enabling the country to begin to recover in the wake of this crisis.

Along with food, plastic sheeting and mosquito nets were necessary for displaced families to create temporary accommodation while the humanitarian relief effort was ongoing – both of which were delivered by humanitarian air cargo charter courtesy of Chapman Freeborn.

Hanoi Airdrop

For a final example, it’s important to remember that humanitarian aid efforts don’t always have to be in response to grand catastrophes or seismic natural events. Sometimes, even simple events can provide impetus to relief efforts. In October 2012, for example, Chapman Freeborn delivered much-needed medical supplies to Hanoi, Vietnam, following the closure of a hospital in Denver, Colorado.

This initiative, spearheaded by the St. Anthony Health Foundation, served as a way of commemorating the bombing of the recipient hospital in Vietnam 40 years earlier, and had a lasting impact on the prosperity and health of the region. While perhaps not as chaotic and large-scale as the previous examples, this exchange serves as a reminder that any humanitarian relief effort, however small, can provide benefit to local communities, and can itself benefit from the assistance of humanitarian aid air cargo charter.

Looking Ahead

The broad range of examples above – from relatively small-scale donations of medical equipment to full humanitarian responses to ground invasions and earthquakes – serve as clear indicators of the benefits provided when humanitarian aid agencies such as USAID collaborate with diligent, professional, and experienced air cargo providers such as Chapman Freeborn. The benefits in terms of logistics, speed, and cost speak for themselves, but the key recipient in all of these outcomes remains the people who need it most.

Ensuring effective cargo help, aid delivery, and time-critical air cargo charter enables aid to get to the people who need it as quickly and as directly as possible. This, bluntly, saves lives. That’s why air cargo charter has been used in response to humanitarian catastrophes for decades. It’s why WFP airdrops use aid cargo charters in crises around the world today. It’s also why humanitarian support will continue to rely on air cargo charter services for the foreseeable future, and Chapman Freeborn are privileged to be a part of that.

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