Local Pilots Flying To Haiti On Relief Mission

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WAXHAW, N.C.,None - A team of Charlotte-area pilots is joining Samaritan's Purse on a relief mission to Haiti.

But taking off and landing could be tricky and downright treacherous in the earthquake-shaken land.

On Wednesday, crew members with JAARS, a missionary aviation organization, made sure all systems work properly on their Kodiak airplane before flying some practice routes in Waxhaw.

Steve Ottaviano is one of two specially trained pilots helping Samaritan's Purse deliver relief supplies to Haiti, including boxes of bandages.

Members of JAARS are trained to fly in some of the most challenging environments.

"It's very often mountainous, and almost always a grass or sod airstrip," Ottaviano said.

JAARS pilots have years of experience going right in to the heart of disaster zones. JAARS participated in relief efforts in Indonesia after the 2005 tsunami.

"It was very painful to see up close and personal how much hurt and pain there was, and I'm sure that story is repeated a thousand-fold in Haiti," said pilot Mark Wueffel.

As they prepare to come face to face with devastation again, they bring with them faith, hope and love.

"Each one is very different, and it is very special to make a difference in that way. We really believe that our job here and our calling is to serve, serving God while we're serving other people," said Ottaviano.

The team plans to fly out Friday and they hope to land in Haiti some time Saturday. They'll stay there for three weeks.

JAARS will rotate crews into Haiti over the next three or four months. They'll also help Samaritan's Purse with helicopter missions in Haiti.