How a private aviation company is helping nonprofits transport supplies to Ukraine in support of the global airlift
- Private aviation consultancy Private Jet Services has coordinated the transport of thousands of meals to Ukraine.
- The company works with NGOs to organize airlift shipments from the US to Poland, which are then trucked to Ukraine.
- PSJ provides logistical support, like processing paperwork, finding available freighters, and planning the flights.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, countries and carriers have launched vital humanitarian efforts to help the Ukrainian people.
For example, in early March, Hungary-based Wizz Air offered 100,000 free seats to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the nation.
Meanwhile, American Airlines has created a fundraiser to support UNICEF’s Change for Good program that helps families gain access to basic necessities.
Source: American Airlines
Several non-government organizations (NGOs) have also jumped into action, with some focusing on getting life-saving supplies to Ukraine, like food and medical equipment.
However, air-freight constraints worldwide have caused delays in getting some supplies to Ukraine. Moreover, some countries are hesitant to help Ukraine because of pressure from Russia.
Because of the logistical and political obstacles, North American private charter consultancy Private Jet Services (PSJ) has initiated its own relief effort.
Source: United States Institute of Peace
PSJ CEO Greg Raiff told Insider that, in partnership with several NGOs, the company has begun coordinating the shipment of meals-ready-to-eat (MRE) and medical kits to Poland via air transport.
Once the supplies arrive via air, they are then driven to Ukraine on trucks. Each shipment has 59,136 MREs, according to the company.
Seven planes have been flown to Poland to date, including Airbus A340s, Boeing 767s, and a Boeing 777. The company also helped coordinate last-minute relief efforts during the Afghanistan crisis in August.
Raiff explained that PSJ does not operate the aircraft itself, but rather uses its resources to locate available cargo planes when a load of goods gets put together by one of the NGOs in the US. Then, it coordinates the charter flight to Poland.
He told Insider that while these are airliners being flown, it is a private charter operation. “I think people would be willing to move one Gulfstream-worth of bullet proof vests, but the plane is small by comparison and really wouldn’t move the needle,” Raiff said.
Specifically, he explained PSJ uses passenger jets that airlines have made available in the charter market for on-demand missions, like relief flying to Ukraine.
“Several of the airlines are what we call “zero-LOPA” aircraft, meaning you take a passenger planes and take the seats out, then you boatload the upper deck and still use the pallet or container cargo down below,” Raiff explained.
He also said that there is a lot of legal work that goes into shipping abroad because of the licenses needed to export goods from the US and import goods to Europe.
“It doesn’t matter if there is a war going on, the amount of paperwork involved to use an aircraft to transport non-lethal equipment is still shockingly huge even though we know the purpose of sending MREs to Poland these days,” Raiff told Insider.
Having idle aircraft standing by waiting on paperwork to airlift the goods would waste millions of dollars, Raiff explained, so that’s why PSJ comes in to organize the operation.
“We are the ‘air arm’ for the NGOs that provides the lift and logistical support so things can get moving,” he said.
Raiff said he has a great team of people that have supported the operation, and it’s what gets them up in the morning. “The team has gotten really good at tracking and knowing where every transport category aircraft is that may be available for charter,” he said.
PSJ’s relief flying has contributed to the world effort to get humanitarian shipments to Ukraine.
“We all clearly have a moral obligation to help out if we possibly can,” Raiff said. “We’re not looking to carry lethal ammunition or anything of a war-fighting nature, we are simply looking to move supplies and equipment to help people survive.”