November 11. 2012 9:51PM

NH pilots take to air with relief for Hurricane Sandy victims

Union Leader Correspondent

Mike Joswick, of Bedford, and his son Ryan load up Joswick's plane with supplies and clothing for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)
NASHUA - What started as one plane loaded with supplies for the storm-ravaged coastline of New York and New Jersey caught the attention of amateur pilots from across the Granite State. On Saturday, 10 planes flew out of Nashua and Newport packed with donations for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Last week, before a nor'easter blew into town, pilot Jim Murphy of Brookline put out a call for donations of diapers and baby wipes, items that were desperately needed in parts of New York and New Jersey that suffered devastating floods, fires, and power outages stemming from the hurricane that slammed into the area late last month. In less than a day, Murphy had more supplies than his small Mooney airplane could carry, so he turned to a relief organization run by folks in aviation called The group connected him with fellow New Hampshire pilot John Wilson, who had a larger plane, and together they ferried 600 pounds of supplies to Long Island.

Murphy said an article about the mission he and Wilson flew caught the attention of other amateur aviators who wanted to contribute their time in the air as well. On Saturday, 10 pilots from New Hampshire and Massachusetts loaded their aircraft with thousands of pounds of clothing, including warm winter jackets for kids, and flew south.

Four of those pilots, including Murphy, Mike Joswick of Bedford, John Merriman of Newport, and Todd Alvarez of Chicopee, Mass., met at the Nashua Jet hangar at Nashua Airport and began packing donations into their planes, keeping track of the weight of the bags full of supplies in order to ensure they could get, and stay, off the ground.

Alvarez said he was searching the Internet for a way to help people in New York and New Jersey when he came across a message about Murphy's flight.

"It was a good excuse to fly while doing something for other people," said Alvarez.

Joswick, whose son Ryan, 6, was helping to load the plane before climbing aboard as a co-pilot, said that helping those in need "seemed like the least we could do."

Emails and a phone call alerted Merriman to the effort, and though he was aware that flights were taking place, he said there needed to be someone to organize the effort, and that's where Murphy came in.

"Jim did the organizing for this and made it easy for us," said Merriman.

Volunteers with trucks met the pilots at the Farmingdale Airport on Long Island ready to unload the cargo and get it to the people who need it, said Murphy.

"They've got it pretty well oiled down there," he said.