State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha will participate in hurricane relief and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, piloting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel on flights from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the devastated island.
Krist has postponed a planned campaign fly-around tour of Nebraska scheduled for later this month to respond to the request from the Corps.
A retired U.S. Air Force pilot, Krist is chief of operations at Dyna-Tech Aviation Services Inc., an Omaha-based company that has provided air service for the Corps of Engineers since 2001.
"We're on a three-hour response time," Krist said Wednesday, and he is one of four pilots who are ready to go.
Krist said he'll reschedule his gubernatorial campaign kickoff tour for mid-October. The Omaha senator, who has changed his voter registration from Republican to nonpartisan, will be a third-party candidate in the 2018 general election challenging the re-election of Gov. Pete Ricketts.
"Obviously, this takes precedent over politics," Krist said.
This isn't the first time Krist has participated in disaster relief flights.
"I vividly remember the trip into New York City after the 9/11 attack," he said during a telephone conversation.
"During the approach from Newark down the Hudson River, we were the only thing flying with the exception of fighters," he said. "It was pretty eerie."
Other disaster relief flights that he has piloted included a response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"We are ready now to take more engineers and support people into the Virgin Islands," Krist said. "Awaiting the call."
Krist will be piloting a 19-passenger Metro 23 aircraft; the flight from Fort Lauderdale will be about two hours and 40 minutes, he said.