Private pilots giving free flights to stranded Nebraska residents

Private pilots giving free flights to stranded Nebraska residents
Adam Liston via CNN
Private pilots stepped in to help stranded residents in Fermont, Nebraska.

A pilot for 10 years, Adam Liston was at work, away from his small Nebraska community, when record flooding forced his wife and two kids to evacuate. When he got back, he knew what he had to do.

“When I was able to return to Nebraska and saw the devastation, I just knew I had to help in the best way I could. And that was fly people in and out of the isolated town of Fremont,” Liston, 29, of nearby Woodcliff, told CNN. “I know how helpless I felt being away from my family during this, and I wanted to reunite as many people as I could.”

Liston is among an impromptu crew of private pilots who have offered free flights to residents stranded in Fremont. Deadly flooding in parts of Nebraska has turned whole communities into islands as the Platte and Elkhorn rivers swelled to record highs.

Fremont’s 28,000 residents were cut off at the height of the flooding. Flood records have been shattered in 17 places, and more rivers will likely break cresting records this week, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said.

Liston personally airlifted about 40 people thanks to a["ad-manager-551125-2"]= {"custom_css":[],"ad_details":[{"min_width":"","max_width":"","dfp_ad_sizes":[{"dfp_ad_width":"300","dfp_ad_height":"250"}]}],"ad_id":551125,"ad_container":"div-ad-manager-551125-2","ad_placement":"in-article","ad_name":"ad-manager-551125-2","position":"in_article","article_position":2,"out_of_page_ad":null,"lazyload":"global"};

“He texted me and asked if I could help, and I thought it was a great opportunity to use my pilot skills for good,” Marshall said.

Marshall, who has been a private pilot for almost three years, said he made more than 30 trips between Fremont and Omaha’s Millard neighborhood and transported about 40 people. His phone was ringing nonstop for two days from people asking to be transported, he said.

“I transported the entire Midland University dance team to Omaha so they wouldn’t miss their commercial flight and a woman named Allie who has five kids and had been cut off from her family,” he said, noting that two of the children were 18-month-old twins.

“I transported another woman whose husband had been airlifted to Omaha but she couldn’t be with him because the roads were closed and there was no room in the helicopter,” Marshall said.

“Most people had a look of relief when they got a ride,” he said. “I got a lot of hugs the last few days!”

In Kjeldgaard’s 48 years in the business, he’s never seen a response quite like this, he said.

“We’ve had flood situations here before but never this magnitude. We never needed this evacuation-type response. I’ve been here 48 years,” he said.

“That’s the outpouring from general aviation pilots,” he added. “We’re a close-knit community, even if we’re a long ways away. You hate to see disasters like this happen, but the support was very nice to see.”