In a significant step towards enhancing their disaster response capabilities, the international evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse recently dedicated a state-of-the-art Airlift Response Center and cargo aircraft in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The new facility, boasting a massive 62,000 square feet of space, is strategically located at the Piedmont Triad International Airport, a mere 100 miles from Samaritan’s Purse’s headquarters in Boone.
The Airlift Response Center is a multifaceted facility, comprising a 55,000-square-foot hangar and office space. This momentous occasion was marked by a dedication ceremony on Tuesday, which drew an audience of over 300 people and coincided with the first mission of the charity’s recently acquired Boeing 757.
At the heart of this operation are nearly two dozen dedicated individuals, including pilots, flight engineers, load masters, and maintenance personnel, all working in tandem to ensure the smooth functioning of this critical hub. Reverend Franklin Graham, the CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, spoke with The Christian Post about the purpose of the Airlift Response Center, emphasizing its significance in maintaining the organization’s fleet of heavy-duty aircraft. According to Graham, this facility is pivotal in allowing them to respond rapidly to crises anywhere in the world.
With the Airlift Response Center in place, the organization can have an aircraft loaded with a fully-equipped field hospital ready for deployment within just 12 hours, facilitating their commitment to swift action in times of disaster. Graham stressed, “It allows us to continue to conduct business the way we like to conduct business and that is quickly.”
Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the renowned evangelist Billy Graham, revealed that the Airlift Response Center project had been in development for over five years. This facility equips the charity with the tools and mechanics to respond with agility to crises such as climate-related disasters and global health emergencies like COVID-19. Graham noted that, in the face of an increasingly unpredictable world, rapid response is not only essential but a matter of life and death.
He remarked, “The quicker we respond, the better because life is at stake, and we want to be able to save life so it’s very important that we respond as quickly as we possibly can.”
The construction of the Airlift Response Center was completed a year ago, following a year and a half of meticulous design and a two-year building process. The dedication ceremony was deliberately held off until the organization’s second aircraft, a Boeing 757, was fully refurbished and received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval. Graham explained, “We wanted to dedicate the planes and the facility all at the same time.”
The Boeing 757, now in service alongside an existing Douglas DC-8, stands as Samaritan’s Purse’s two largest cargo aircraft. Over the past seven years, the DC-8 has proven its mettle by delivering nearly 8 million pounds of essential cargo to numerous countries across 185 flights. Notably, the aircraft made 41 roundtrip journeys to Ukraine, delivering a field hospital and 1.5 million pounds of relief supplies to the war-torn nation.
Graham shared the intricacies of getting the 757 flight-ready, explaining, “It needed some refurbishing, it needed [Federal Aviation Administration] approval, and the FAA approval took quite a while.” The Boeing 757 recently completed its maiden mission, carrying 24 tons of cargo to assist in wildfire-ravaged Maui, Hawaii.
The organization proudly announced that the aircraft’s cargo hold is equivalent to the space of three tractor-trailers, with a maximum payload capacity of 67,000 pounds, making it a valuable asset in their disaster relief efforts.
In a heartfelt statement released before the dedication ceremony, Graham expressed his gratitude, saying, “We thank God for the new Greensboro Airlift Response Center and our two cargo planes that give us the ability to meet needs in Jesus’ name. As a pilot, I know the value of aviation. It allows us to respond quickly when disasters strike — we couldn’t do it without these tools and this team.”
With their enhanced capabilities, Samaritan’s Purse is now better equipped than ever to deliver humanitarian aid promptly and efficiently to those in dire need, both at home and around the world.