Chapman Freeborn assists Air Force in operation to reunite Alaska families with sled dogs
Five months after the catastrophic Yukon River flooding in Galena, recovery works are still underway to rebuild the small town in Alaska which was once home to almost 500 residents.
For the past three months, Chapman Freeborn Airchartering was part of the rescue and rebuilding efforts – the leading aircraft charter specialist operated six chartered flights a week to send a team of contractors with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, their equipment, supplies and environmental samples to the area to assist with making the area safe again.
“Regular flights were required to position contractors between Fairbanks and Galena so they could spend as long as possible each day on gathering samples for tests. As there were no locally-based carriers available, we positioned an Embraer 120 Brasilia aircraft up from Midwest United States to operate those daily rotations,” said Helen Hollis, Passenger Charter Broker from Chapman Freeborn USA, who managed the air charter operations to Galena.
The chartered flights began with 15 passengers a day but soon increased to up to 30 passengers so that the contractors could complete their tasks before the harsh winter weather set in. Approaching the end of September, however, the flight manifest boasted a few canine passengers.
The aircraft charter specialist was approached to assist with returning 15 sled dogs evacuated from the area back to their owners. Although sled dogs may not be the sole means of transportation around Galena anymore, for the locals, they are an integral part of the winter culture.
Chapman Freeborn USA team worked closely with the airline and the Air Force to move the dogs on the aircraft back to Galena. As the safety and well-being of the sled dogs were of paramount importance, the aircraft charter specialist ensured that the aircraft is in the right condition for the canine passengers during the one hour plus flight.
Commenting on the challenges of the operation, Hollis said: “Some of the dogs didn’t have health certificates as they were destroyed in the floods so we had to get vets to sign them off before they travelled. We also had to check that they could travel in the cargo hold as there wasn’t space for them in the cabin. While the sled dogs are used to living in cold conditions, we had to make sure that the temperature in the cargo hold would not drop too low for them.”
“Furthermore, the vets from the local shelters helped to ensure the dogs were in good health so they could travel. Although we had some diversion due to the weather in Alaska, overall the flights were a great success.”
On September 16th, Tiny and Cruger were the first sled dogs to return home to Galena.
Photo: Tiny and Cruger offloaded from the plane’s cargo hold