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December 26, 2002
Continental Pilots Respond to Call for Guam Super-Typhoon Relief
HOUSTON, TX --- In the true spirit of the season, Continental and Continental Express pilots responded to the needs of friends and neighbors in Guam who were still struggling in the aftermath of super-typhoon Pongsona that struck Guam Dec. 8.
With winds exceeding 180 mph, Pongsona did extensive damage to the island. The local infrastructure was severely strained, with a shortage of housing and many areas remaining without electricity two weeks after the storm. Many of the stores remained closed, making replacement of essentials as well as Christmas shopping impossible. Schools were closed and converted into shelters.
Friday, Dec. 20, pilot donations of children's clothing and toys were collected in Houston from throughout the Continental system to be packed and shipped to Guam to arrive in time for Christmas. More than 70 large packing boxes were filled, meaning that it could not all be flown out on one flight.
The last of the donations arrived on a flight at 1:30 a.m. Christmas morning. At 8 a.m., pilots with their wives and family members sorted the almost 1.5 tons donated and began deliveries to the UPI Elementary School that had been turned into a shelter. There, the pilots delivered toys to more than 100 children.
"There were a lot of excited kids," said Capt. Bill Sutherland, LEC 173 CA Rep. "We made Christmas for a lot of the kids and their families where otherwise there would have been none."
It took five pickup trucks to make the deliveries, which eventually carried clothes and toys to eight different shelters. Even so, about 30 boxes were left and will be donated to the company's We Care program to go to employees' families.
Currently, about 130 pilots for Continental Micronesia are based in Guam. Continental Micronesia has provided commercial air service in Guam since 1968.
"We have shared the good and the bad with the people of Guam, including earlier typhoons," said Capt. John Prater, Chairman of the Continental Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l (CAL ALPA), which represents the 6,000 pilots of Continental and Continental Express Airlines.
"Many Continental pilots have spent part of their careers flying in Guam and no one ever forgets the experience or the people," said Prater, who spent several years in Guam.
After learning the extent of damage from local ALPA Reps Capt. Bill Sutherland, F/O Nick Bonacci and F/O Eric Anderson, CAL ALPA initiated the relief drive. Continental Airlines Flight Operations joined the effort, offering to provide shipping of the donations to Guam.
"Once we knew what was most needed, we let our members know and they responded magnificently, as they always do," said Prater. "Pilots in bases outside Houston overnighted donations to Houston to get them here in time for shipping."
With less than a week to collect the items, the MEC offices stayed open until 7 p.m. Dec. 17-20 to collect the donations. Pilot volunteers manned the phones to alert the pilot group to the need and helped keep the offices open late.
After the last of the donations came in Friday evening (Dec. 20), the donations were packed. Several van and truck trips later, the boxes were delivered to the Continental docks for loading and delivery to Guam by Christmas.
ALPA, the world’s oldest and largest pilots union, represents 66,000 airline pilots at 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA Website at http://www.alpa.org.
ALPA CONTACT: Jim Moody, (713) 590-6395