Mission: All pilots, nurses and other professionals come to Wings already trained and licensed. Wings cost is the reimbursement of aviation fuel consumed during the mission to the pilot. The pilots are now paying $5.25 per gallon of gas.. Wings pays nothing for storage of planes, maintenance costs, training costs or anything else that is associated with keeping the plane and the pilot current. Our pilots are the nucleus of our organization. Take for instance the Schmidt boys. The twin boys, from Minot ND, were born with cerebral palsy. They had previously undergone corrective hip surgery which left them in full body casts. Steve Nelson, the pilot, flew to Minot and St. Paul''s Gillette hospital twice (back and forth, back and forth) that day. His plane is equipped with one stretcher, our only stretcher. The human service aspect of our organization is the main reason why pilots enjoy flying for us. Although reimbursement of the cost of aviation fuel to the pilots is an incentive, it is nothing compared to the hug and smile Steve Nelson received from the mother of the twins after making those 2 flights.
Programs: Pilots love to fly for us. For a pilot to keep their license current, they have to fly a set number of hours. Wings missions provide documented hours and a charitable human service that is appreciated, usually with a smile or a hug from the recipient. Although Wings does not usually perform emergency air transport, recipient Melissa Robels? was an exception. Melissa?s doctor evacuated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because his house had been flooded and looted during the aftermath. The Doctor left behind numerous patients; Melissa, a young woman with a serious abdominal wound along with spina bifida was one of his abandoned patients. One of our pilots, Richard Labute, was contacted by the Allina Health System and he along with co-pilot Dan Totushek flew from Buffalo MN to Signature Aviation at Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans to pick up Melissa. They then flew back to the Buffalo MN airport where representatives from Abbott Northwestern took over Melissa?s care. Melissa is currently living in the Twin Cities area with her aunt and as of last conversation, is doing well. Most of the time, our recipients are not emergency patients. They are medical patients who receive follow-up treatments for cancer, cerebral palsy, breathing problems or spinal surgery. All of our recipients have medical insurance. Most of our recipients are referred to us by social workers and clergy throughout the upper midwest area. They must prove financial as well as medical need. Our recipients are not able to be transported via van, bus, or train for a number of reasons; the alignment of their bodies simply cannot make it onto the van, bus or train; their immune system needs to be protected or they or their caregiver, have already missed so much work due to the illness that any more time off for the longer trips would put them on the unemployment line, thus losing medical insurance and their standard of living. Most of our recipients fit all three of these criteria. Wings requires two FAA certified pilots on each flight plus a nurse or a family member to accompany the recipient. The 2 pilots ensure increased safety and the nurse or the family member ensure peace of mind not only for the recipient but the pilots as well. Our recipients have scheduled appointments for their treatments, sometimes months in advance. Canceling a flight on behalf of Wings would be detrimental to the recovery of our recipients. Our program would cease to exist due to the recipient not being able to trust us to get them to their destination on time.