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Fri, Jan 14, 2022

HAI's Salute to Excellence Awarded to MD Helicopters

Helo Company Recognized For Navajo Nation Support Missions

The Helicopter Association International (HAI) has announced the 2022 recipient of its Salute to Excellence Humanitarian Service Award. Every year, it honors those who best demonstrate the value of helicopters to the world by providing assistance to those in need. It will be presented on March 7 at the association's Heli-Expo 2022 in Dallas, Texas. 

When the COVID pandemic began sweeping across the United States in 2020, the Navajo Nation quickly experienced the country’s highest per-capita rate of infections and deaths. Located in the corner of Northeast Arizona, the reservation also expands into the high desert of Southeastern Utah and Northwestern New Mexico. Overall, the Nation is home to nearly 300,000 people spread across 27,000 square miles with many areas lacking utilities. With far-flung communal groups far from modern medical infrastructure, many are accustomed to weights of hours to reach aid by vehicle. The Nation closed its borders early on to reduce the viral spread, but their restrictions included trucks bringing supplies into the reservation.

MD Helicopters COO Chris Jaran saw a chance to help, saying “We had helicopters, and the unanimous support from our leadership board, to volunteer our time, pilots, fuel, and maintenance to fly supplies into the Navajo Nation. We only needed to know how our helicopters could be of the best use.” The company began working with The Veterans Medical Leadership Council, one of the few with permission to enter the Navajo Nation. The Council immediately took MD up on the offer. “We thought we’d be flying out protective equipment and things like that, but there was a more dire need initially,” Jaran said. “Winter temperatures drop into the 30s out there, and many tribal members rely on wood to heat their homes and cook food. Usually, wood is delivered to them. Without the supply trucks, they needed a way to collect their own wood. The first load of supplies we flew was chainsaws.” 

The VMLC was supporting veterans in the Chinle area of the Navajo Nation, the most remote area on the reservation and the one with the highest infection rates. The VMLC brought supplies to MD Helicopters’ factory in Mesa, Arizona, that were then flown to the Nation in an MD 902 helicopter. MD Helicopters has flown 52 of its supply missions to the Nation, delivering more than 40,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. “Our aircraft are used for life-protecting missions around the world,” said Jaran. “It was our honor to step up and do what we could to support these efforts in our own backyard.”

FMI: www.heliexpo.com, www.mdhelicopters.com

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