Angel Flight West (www.angelflightwest.org), an organization which provides a needed service for the passengers and joy to its pilots.
I have donated my time and the expenses of operating my airplane to Angel Flight West, off and on for several years. The purpose of Angel Flight West is to provide expense-free flights to deserving people in need of transportation for humanitarian reasons. The reasons vary, although they often involve travel for medical needs. Although the AFW pilots are all volunteers who pay for the operation of their airplanes, AFW provides the logistical support, which requires full time (and I dare say, underpaid) employees to do all of the arranging of flights, rented office space in which to work, and the usual expenses of maintaining an office.
When I first joined AFW, I did not realize how much I would get back in the joy of providing the flights. The easiest way to describe that feeling is to describe 3 of the flights, each very different from the others.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered to fly to Killeen, TX, to pick up a teenage girl and her dog. She had been visiting a relative in Killeen when the hurricane hit her family’s home in New Orleans, and her family had been air-evac’d from New Orleans to Denver. My purpose was to reunite the family. So I flew to Killeen from Fort Collins, picked up my passenger and her dog and the usual amazing stack of stuff that teenagers think they must have to live, stuffed everything into my little airplane, and flew back to Denver. It was a long flight with a stop going and coming for fuel, so although I’d left early in the morning, we didn’t arrive in Denver until well after dark. We were greeted by her mom and 4 siblings, and the excitement of the kids plus the hugs from my passenger and her mom made it all worthwhile. I arrived back in Fort Collins at 11 p.m. after being in the air a total of more than 11 hours that day.
I picked up my passengers, Gramma, Mom, and 2 year old baby girl, in Scottsbluff, NE, as the second leg of their trip from Iowa City, IA, to Casper, WY. The baby girl was receiving treatment for club feet at the University of Iowa hospital. This was the second time I’d transported this same family, so we all knew what to expect from each other. However, only 2 days before their trip and while they were in Iowa City, an Angel Flight from the east coast had crashed on take off from Iowa City, so my passengers were understandably somewhat nervous. It also happened that a cold front was moving through and was located just east of Casper, so that we had to fly through it and dodge some accompanying scattered thunderstorms. So the ride was bumpy, and the landing at Casper was with an extreme crosswind. Although I warned my passengers that the landing might be a bit rough due to the wind, it was actually very smooth; taxiing in the 40-45 knot wind was more difficult. Once again, I was rewarded with big hugs from all 3 of my passengers, and Gramma punctuated her hug by saying, “I feel so safe, flying with you.”
I picked up my passengers, Mom, Dad, and their 3 year old son, in Denver. The little boy had just gotten a clean bill of health after months of cancer treatment, so the parents were understandably elated and in wonderful spirits. The original plan was just to fly them to Casper and have another AFWer fly them on to Billings, MT, the nearest large airport to their home in Hardin, MT. But I volunteered to take both legs. Poor Mom had a very tender tummy, so she got sick several times during the trip. We stopped for lunch and fuel in Casper, and then flew on toward Billings. But as Dad and I were chatting, I asked if they had left a car in Billings, but they hadn’t—a relative was going to drive up from Hardin to get them. I asked if he knew of any problem with the Hardin airport, and all he knew was that it was very small, but it was only 4 blocks from their home. So instead of going to Billings, I diverted to Hardin. It was indeed a small airstrip, but so much more convenient to their home. And again, I was rewarded by big hugs from both parents and from their little boy.
I have done volunteer work with different agencies throughout my life, but the personal gratification I have had from flying AFW flights has been greater than any other of the volunteering I have done. I get to do something I truly love (flying my little airplane) and I get to do something very meaningful for my passengers. Hard to beat!
Review from #MyGivingStory
Angel Flight West is my hero! My good friend's infant son, Christian, has hypoplastic left heart syndrom (HLHS), Asplenia, and malrotation of his internal organs. He needed to fly down to Stanford for his second open heart surgery, but cannot fly commercially because his Asplenia and HLHS make him too medically fragile. A drive down would have been incredibly hard on his little system, not to mention his parents. Angel Flight West stepped in and found him, his mother, and father a flight down! They were the answer to so many prayers! When it was time for Christian to come home, a flight was scheduled but he had to be readmitted for a brief time at the last minute. Angel Flight West completely reworked his schedule so that he could fly home the next day with absolutely zero stress for Christian's family. What a wonderful service!
Last year AFW flew my daughter and granddaughter to CA from AZ several time for life saving treatment. This year they continue to help children with cancer in AZ get to CA for care. They planes provide an additional bonus in that they are private planes vs. commercial. You are not afraid to fly AFW with a child who has a compromised immune system. Thanks to the entire staff for servicing the state of AZ. Teri Dornhecker Director Daisy's Eye Cancer Fund
I can't say enough wonderful things about this organization. My granddaughter has Retinoblastoma. Eye cancer in both eyes. She is only 7 months old and doing multi-state travel for treatment. AFW has been taking her and my daughter to and from treatment monthly and it has been a blessing. Money as everyone with cancer knows is tight. To have this service available is a God sent. The best part is with chemo your immune system is compromised and with AFW being private planes we do not have to put Evie on a commercial flight with the risk of others being Ill. They are so generous and helpful. They don't even let my daughter carry her luggage. They treat us like we are the ones doing them a favor, not the other way around. Thank you so much for serving our community.