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Sun, Sep 03, 2023

Freedom Aviation Network Combats Human Trafficking

Rising Above

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Transportation have invited Nashville-based non-profit Freedom Aviation Network (FAN) to partner with the Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI).

Freedom Aviation joins concerns the likes of New Jersey’s Sparrow Executive Jets, which in April 2023 announced with pride that it had earned the distinction of being the first air charter brokerage to partner with the Blue Lightning Initiative—a joint venture of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Transportation (DOT) that seeks to end human trafficking.

The Blue Lightning Initiative is an element of the DHS Blue Campaign, a national public awareness campaign undertaken for purpose of educating the public, law enforcement, and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and respond appropriately to possible cases thereof. The Blue Campaign leverages partnerships with the private sector, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), law enforcement, and state/local authorities to maximize national public engagement in anti-human trafficking efforts. The Blue Campaign’s educational awareness objectives comprises two foundational elements: prevention of human trafficking and protection of exploited persons.

Within the context of the aviation industry, the Blue Lightning Initiative trains aviation personnel to identify potential traffickers and victims, and to report suspicions to federal law enforcement.

Freedom Aviation Network’s volunteer general aviation pilots provide air-transportation to survivors of human trafficking and their advocates.

Identifying means by which to safely, quickly, and quietly transport liberated former victims is a challenge shared by the growing number of organizations engaged in combating human traffickers. A survey conducted via a human trafficking hotline maintained by the Polaris Project—a non-profit NGO working to combat and prevent sex and labor trafficking in North America—revealed 54-percent of human trafficking survivors cited inadequate access to transportation among the greatest hindrances to their respective emancipations.

Survivors unable to alacritously distance themselves from their captors remain at significant risk of re-exploitation. Ergo, Freedom Aviation Network seeks to provide survivors safe transportation beyond the reach of the sadistic criminals by which the human trafficking business is populated.

Freedom Aviation Network executive director Jared Miller stated: “Becoming a partner in the Blue Lightning Initiative is a significant step for Freedom Aviation Network, as it gives us access to important training tools for our pilots and the aviation community.”

Volunteer Freedom Aviation Network pilot and board-member Trey Rochford remarked: “As a volunteer FAN pilot, I have to think about more than the mechanics of the flight. I must consider that for the survivor I meet, I may be the first safe man they may have encountered in a very long time. It’s hard for me to even imagine the circumstances they are leaving, so having access to a training program that can help prepare me is critical."

Currently, Freedom Aviation Network comprises upwards of one-hundred pilots in more than 31 U.S. states.

Freedom Aviation Network’s operating model is at once simple and effective. The organization identifies and posts missions to which volunteer pilots pledge their aircraft and time. FAN then arranges to have survivors and their advocates meet the volunteer pilots at local airports from which they are quietly flown to safety.

Freedom Aviation Network intends to invite all of its volunteer pilots to participate in the Blue Lightning Initiative’s training program. Once FAN’s pilots are adequately trained, the organization aspires to train pilots throughout the larger general aviation community to perceive the signs of human trafficking, to identify potential victims, and to respond appropriately to such.

After the fashion peculiar to all worthwhile enterprises struggling to carry on selfless and noble work, Freedom Aviation Network remains perpetually in need of skilled volunteers and funds by which to expand the reach of its mission.



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