February -26- Delegates to the first Global Aviation Safety Conference for Humanitarian Air Operations, held in Abu Dhabi have given a unanimous endorsement to the event.

The conference focused on aviation safety and the unique difficulties faced in transporting aid personnel and materials to sites that are often barely accessible.

"This was an excellent forum to explore and share the problems and solutions inherent in airborne humanitarian operations," said Cesar Arroyo, head of aviation safety at the World Food Programme (WFP) which presented the conference.

Arroyo's views were echoed by the 200-plus delegates attending from across the world who heard first-hand experience from the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and the US Federal Aviation Authority, as well as relief flight operators.

The first day examined local and global regulatory issues affecting safety and security, and the second looked at air operations from the perspective of WFP and other humanitarian stakeholders.

Fathi Hilal Buhazza, president and chief executive of Maximus Air Cargo, lead sponsor of the conference, called on the aviation industry to follow the example of Maximus by carrying out humanitarian missions at cost.

Buhazza insisted humanitarian missions are good for business and are sustainable, even though they do not bring in profit as such, and adding: "The more hours your aircraft do, the lower the hourly rate will be and so the more efficient you become," he says.

As the exclusive air relief support partner for the UAE Red Crescent, Maximus has operated close on 30 flights for the UN World Food Programme, Unicef, UN African Union, and the Sudan and Yemen Red Crescents, as well as relief flights from Czech Republic to Sudan to deliver construction equipment for the United Nations, and dozens of flights for the European Mission in Chad.

Buhazza hopes to encourage other companies to follow suit with his Care by Air programme. Maximus Air Cargo is approaching airlines and other operators, fuel suppliers, airport authorities, and handling agents asking them to join the initiative and also offer their services at cost for charity flights.