October 30, 2007
October 30, 2007
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Any time of day or night you hear it approaching. The rumbling buzz of its rotor blades slap the air to announce its arrival at the Liberty Hospital or its passing overhead. The emergency life-flight helicopter has been called upon for yet another mission.
When people think of aerial medical transport, they think of Life-Flight, but there is another group the public is often not aware of. Air Charity Network, formerly Angel Flight America, consists of everyday private and professional pilots who donate their time, their skills and their aircraft to serve others. They transport cancer patients and people with life threatening illnesses at no charge to where they receive treatment. Pilots donate their time and the entire expense of their missions, including fuel costs, any landing fees and the standard operational maintenance costs of the aircraft. They are not reimbursed by the patients, insurance companies, or the government.
Pilots who fly for Air Charity Network are caring, compassionate individuals from all walks of life and professions. They are crop dusters, small town business owners, realtors, retirees. Some own planes and some rent planes. All pilots must meet experience requirements, Federal Aviation Administration proficiency requirements, and maintain aircraft liability insurance.
According to Air Charity Network every 24 minutes someone in need is being flown for free to get needed medical help. Volunteer pilot based, they rely completely on donations from individuals, clubs, events and foundations to keep the organization running.
Linda: Here’s how it works: When someone requests a flight mission coordinators work diligently to find a volunteer pilot or identify another appropriate transportation resource. Although many pilots are "on-call" for last minute transplant, blood and special circumstance flights, they appreciate as much time as possible to find the best transportation option for the patient.
Of course, volunteer pilots could not accomplish their missions if it were not for a strong network of ground support volunteers who screen passengers, coordinate missions, answer phones helping to "spread the word", organize and/or help with special events, drive passengers to and from the airport, perform administrative tasks, and help with outreach at aviation and healthcare events. If you would like to get involved in ways other than flying, there are many opportunities to be an important part of the Air Charity Network team.
Air Charity Network is comprised of independent member organizations identified by specific geographical service area. Angel Flight South Central serves our area coordinating out of Addison Airport. They also have a patient receiving hangar at Hobby Airport. Last year they had over 4600 requests and flew over 3000 of those missions.
To contact Angel Flight South Central, call 800-989-2602. Shireen Pitassi is the lead mission coordinator. You can also go to www.angelflightsc.org. To locate the Air Charity Network organization that serves another area, call 877-621-7177 or www.aircharitynetwork.org.
If you know of anyone with a personal Angel Flight story, please let us know. We’d love to share your story.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.