As Hurricane Harvey tore through south Texas last August, Jim Rice (MAeroEngr’99) knew that people in the heavily flooded areas were going be severely affected by impassable roads, cut off from clean water and necessary services.
So Rice, who has been flying small planes for 25 years, contacted Patient AirLift Services and offered to fly supply missions in his private plane.
Although his house did not flood, it took several days after the rains finally stopped for his neighborhood’s flooded streets to become passable enough for him to reach his plane, a four-seat, single-engine Mooney M20J, kept in a hangar in Pearland, Texas.
After the record-breaking flooding, Rice, who also received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from CU Denver in 1995, flew 21 flights, nine of them loaded with cargo onboard. For every flight with supplies on board, there was a flight to return to base to pick up supplies for three different communities.
Over four days he carried a total of 4,187 pounds of donated supplies bound for communities in the devastated areas of west Houston, Beaumont and Orange. His cargo ranged from bottles of water to baby formula and diapers.
“I knew the Houston area would be flooded so badly that trucks wouldn’t be able to get in and out—people would be cut off from civilization,” he said. “I don’t have the type of aircraft to do rescue missions, like plucking people off rooftops, but I could fly relief supplies.”