National Jets weathers Hurricane Irma, and praises staff


National Jets has praised the dedication and selflessness of its staff following Hurricane Irma.

The Fort Lauderdale-based jet charter, management and maintenance company was on the edges of last week’s category five storm, and managed to come through it more or less unscathed, but played a vital role in evacuating families from the area.

And president and CEO Sam Robbin told Corporate Jet Investor: “Our people were shoulder-to-shoulder nonstop to get those families out. I can’t praise them highly enough – they were amazing. Out of a group of 92, I can honestly say we didn’t have one person who didn’t step up.”

National Jets announced last week that it had “made it through” Hurricane Irma and “our group is safe and sound”. Its base at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport suffered some minor damage but reopened last Tuesday morning, and began receiving arrivals.

“We would like to thank all our employees, vendors and law enforcement for supporting us over this past week,” it said in a statement.

Robbin said National Jets had had just a few days to get ready for Hurricane Irma. “Prior to the hurricane season starting, we have a big manual that we sit down and go through with key staff to make sure everyone is up to speed and all our procedures are the same.

“We were hit by a major hurricane in 2005 that did a lot of damage to us, so we take them very seriously. And that was just a category one! Nobody here in south Florida had experienced a storm of [Hurricane Irma’s] magnitude – we’d never even heard of a category five! We’re fearful of category one, and scared of twos and threes, so you can imagine what it was like here when we knew a five was on its way.”

The hurricane was predicted to pass straight over south Florida but ended up hitting the opposite coast instead. “We still had a lot of the wind and heavy rain. The storm was hundreds of miles wide and the state is only 100 miles across, so we were certainly affected but not to the extent that we’d expected,” said Robbin.

Local roads were full of people leaving the area before Hurricane Irma hit, and KFLL was also busy with private jet owners taking off and National Jet’s own charter business.

“During the two days [of Hurricane Irma] we had hundreds of airplanes coming in and out, taking passengers out. It was critical that we had the staff and fuel to deal with that.”

National Jets staff were working “literally up until the last minute” to get families, including pets and children, onto aircraft and away from the area into states such as New York, Colorado, Georgia. They then left the airport to secure their own homes, said Robbin, and voluntarily returned to continue the work.

“A 737 showed up late on the Thursday evening and that took 60 passengers out. We had well over 100 airplanes using the airport, so we managed to get hundreds of people away,” he added.

“Our staff really worked tirelessly, as did our charter group too. We’re having a thank-you dinner for our employees. This is a family-owned company and when your staff does that, it’s remarkable.”