FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA — There is a benefit to piloting in relief supplies to disaster areas.
While they witness human sorrow, devastation and desperate behavior, pilots also get to help bring hope to the hurt.
People donate necessary supplies; volunteers load it and the air crew gets to see it to its final destination — where people desperately need it.
This week, Agape Flights pilots Jeff Yannucciello and Kory Elleby flew the organization's Chieftain back to the Bahamas — first to Marsh Harbour on Abaco and then to Freeport on Grand Bahama.
Yannucciello has been with Agape nearly 16 years; Elleby about two. In their jobs, they get to see things most people don't.
"Getting to the see the other end — when we're helping people — is always a benefit," Yannucciello said.
Yannucciello studied missionary aviation at Moody Aviation when it was in Elizabethton, Tennessee. It's now located in Spokane, Washington.
"This is something I've been called to do," he said.
Agape has two main planes that it operates — a Piper PA 31-350 Chieftain, tail number N600AB and an Embraer 110 Bandit, tail number N316AF. The Chieftain is mainly for transporting personnel but can be reconfigured for goods.
Yannucciello, 44, Nokomis, said witnessing the good of Agape is something he always appreciates.
"The volunteers, even some of the staff don't get to see this side of the operation," he said.
Elleby, 49, Venice, has been volunteering with Agape as a co-pilot for about two years.
He owns and works as an electrician for Sunshine Electrical Services projects across South Sarasota County.
Elleby said he was introduced to Agape through church. Chief mechanic Greg Haman, who is also an Agape pilot, brought Elleby in and introduced him to the team.
"It was a process to learn airplanes, weight and balances, loads and where we go... eventually, I was allowed to start co-piloting," Elleby said.
Elleby said he was introduced to "this awesome guy," as he taps Yannucciello on the back.
Other volunteer pilots include Steve Koch, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky and Fort Myers; along with Doug Graber who grew up in Ohio and now lives in Sarasota County.
Elleby said the training on in-flight emergencies has become rewarding as they work on preparing on unlikely events — just in case.
Yannucciello noted Agape Flights — while currently in the spotlight for assistance to the Bahamas — has for decades completed work throughout the Caribbean, including Haiti, Cuba and other areas where there is need or missionaries.
"On a week-to-week basis, we get to spend time with the folks who are serving — the missionaries — spend the night with them," Yannucciello said. "We get to hear firsthand from them a lot of times what Agape means to them and how we're being a support and aid to them."