Affiliated Organization: Angel
Type/model aircraft operated in mission
or public benefit flying? Where is most of your flying activity?
Originally a Cessna 206, later a Columbia (now Cessna) 400; I have
flown from South Carolina to Illinois to New Hampshire, but most missions
would fall in a triangle from Pittsburgh to Raleigh to Boston.
When did you become involved in mission
or public benefit flying, and why?
In late 2002, while flying commercially on business, I came across an
article in the in-flight magazine about Angel Flight West. I had never
heard of such an organization, and the idea of helping others while
simultaneously maintaining my flying skills was powerful - much better
than the "$100 hamburger" and more satisfying than just writing
a check. Although I lived outside of New York City, I called AFW the next
day to learn more. They connected me with Angel Flight East (AFE), and I
have been actively involved ever since.
What is the most memorable flight you
have ever had, and why?
While many of the missions I have flown have been memorable, three in
particular stand out in my mind, probably more because of the impact they
had on me.
The very first mission I ever flew for AFE,
in 2003, was a woman in her early 80s who needed to get from Baltimore to
the Cleveland area for treatment of a severe respiratory problem. Her
daughter was accompanying her but she sat up front next to me. It was a
beautiful day to fly, and once we got clear of the BWI airspace there was
time for a little conversation.
It turned out that she had never flown
before. She was incredibly curious about the airplane, its systems, and
the whole process of flight training. Her final conclusion was that she
wished she had known this many years earlier, and that she wished she had
learned how to fly herself. For me, it brought home the impact that first
flights in smaller airplanes have on people, how different they are from
what they expect, and how the time-savings becomes obvious to them.
In April of 2008, I was already at the
airport for other reasons when a request went out for an immediate mission
from New York City to Pittsburgh. A family had arrived a day or two
earlier expecting several weeks of treatment for their seven-year-old son,
but tragically it was determined that his condition had deteriorated,
there was nothing further to be done medically, and that he only had a
week or two to live. The mission was to take the family home for the boy's
It was a beautiful day to fly, and the
mission itself was completely uneventful, but I spent most of the
90-minute flight trying to figure out what I was going to say when we
landed. Usually I tell the patients that I hope they don't have to fly for
treatment again, but if they do, maybe it would be me flying them. In this
case, that wasn't going to work, so I said that I would pray for either a
miracle or a quiet conclusion. One of the boy's grandfathers met us at
KAGC and thanked me profusely, and all I could think about was how sad I
was that I had to fly the mission at all.
My other most memorable mission is one that
I didn't actually fly. In the first year I was flying for AFE I had
volunteered to take a father (the patient, who was almost exactly my age)
and son from Raleigh to Boston in mid-March for what was described in the
mission information form as cancer treatment.
As I monitored the weather in the two or
three days before the flight was to occur, it became apparent that I
wasn't going to be able to fly: low ceilings and icing would be a major
concern for virtually the entire route of flight. I focused on the real
mission, which was to get the patient safely to the treatment location, so
late in the afternoon on the day before I was to fly, I called American
Airlines, identified myself only as a volunteer pilot, and told them why I
was calling and asked if they could help.
They couldn't have been better, selling me
two tickets at "super-saver fare" rates with an open return date
(which was less than I would have spent in direct costs to fly just one
way), even though the only two seats on the flight to Boston were in first
class. I called the mission coordinator at AFE to tell her what I had done
and give her the ticket details, and a short time later she called me back
to tell me that the son wanted to contact me directly, and asked me for
permission to give him my telephone number. I said that it wasn't
necessary but was fine with her giving him my number.
He called me literally in tears to say
thank you, because his father had exhausted all traditional treatments and
needed to be in Boston the next day to begin an experimental program.
Without the infrastructure provided by AFE and other similar
organizations, this family would have missed out on his only hope for
survival. This brought home the direct and powerful impact that we can all
have as individuals on the lives of others.
What would you like EAA members to know
about the type of flying you do?
I fly 125 to 150 hours per year, about 80 percent of which is for personal
purposes, and the remainder for Angel Flight East. My personal flying can
be generally described as to areas that are either not served at all
commercially, or only with one or more stops, so the ability to fly myself
is a big time-saver. In many cases, it is the difference between going and
not going at all.
Why is the Fly for Life program
important to EAA AirVenture 2009 attendees?
Much has been written lately about the economic impact general aviation
has on the communities where smaller airports are located: jobs and
revenues created and taxes paid to local, state, and federal governments.
Without diminishing that in any way, I
think Fly for Life adds one more element: It solves the problem of
transporting people to where they can receive much needed help (my flying
for Angel Flight East) or help to where it is needed (nurses and doctors
to remote locations, or materials of all kinds to areas following floods,
hurricanes, or other natural disasters). This is true here in the United
States, but even more so in countries with minimal road or rail