Every month volunteers from Angel Flight West fly patients needing specialized medical care to hospitals around the U.S.
In this 11 Cares for Your Health Special Report we talked with one of the volunteer pilots about his rewarding efforts and the sacrifices he makes to help others.
“It involves flying an airplane, I like to fly airplanes and do good flying an airplane, doing something for somebody,” says Local Pilot Bill Pitts.
He’s been flying for more than 40 years and for a little more than five of those years has donated his plane, time, money and fuel to Angel Flight West.
“Well we are volunteers and you have to put gas in the airplane and you have to overhaul the airplane and you have to have an annual check on the plane. Put that all in the jug and every time you make a flight could cost you $500, $600, $1,000 bucks just to make a run. That's alright, it's my contribution.”
Angel Flight provides free air transportation to patients that need specialized medical treatment far from their home.
For bill the reward he gets from helping out someone in need far outweighs any out of pocket cost to him.
He says, “Turn around once and a while and a youngster in the back seat is grinning from ear to ear, makes it all worth while.”
And a smile is all bill asks for in return for a free flight, “They don't have to do anything, that grin's plenty. Grins do a lot.”
Since new security measures passed earlier this year volunteer pilots have had to pay a user fee at each airport they visit on top of what it costs to run their planes.
Bill says it's not going to keep him from doing his good deed but it's something he doesn't agree with.
“I don't mind paying 1,000 bucks to haul somebody, but adding in a senseless fee is the straw that breaks the camels back. It’s not gonna stop us from doing it, but it's an extra expense,” he says.
Like many charitable organizations, Angel Flight is struggling in this economy.
The whole operation is run by volunteers and there are more people involved than just the pilots.
“After we as pilots transport somebody wherever, somebody then, volunteer ground crew, picks them up there and takes them to the hospital or wherever they have to go,” he says.
Bill knows how important his part is, “They've got some problem, that's why they need transportation someplace, that's where we come in. And they can't afford it.”
He's sure to be extra safe, checking weight and balance and going through his checklist before every trip he takes.
He wants to make sure he's around to do this for a long time to come.
“There are old pilots and bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots,” he says.
If you or someone you know with a medical problem need the assistance of Angel Flight, they take requests through your doctor and if you are approved will connect you to a volunteer pilot like bill.
Angel Flight operates solely by the work of volunteers and the organization is always in need of donations.
To find out how you can help or how you can qualify for a flight click the link below.