Stories from the Air: Pilots
Back in December, I had the opportunity to fly two year old Alex from Laconia, NH to Westover, MA.
Alex is an amazing veteran of Angel Flight. Although only 2, he has accumulated approximately thirty round trips to the Shriner's hospital in Springfield, Mass. When Alex was born, his feet were not properly aligned. In order to correct this situation, Alex has undergone two surgeries and several "adjustments" to his bone structure.
As I strapped Alex into his car seat in the back of the 182, he looked at me and said in the most enthusiastic voice a 2 year old can muster "ALL SET!!!" Actually, it sounded more like "AW SET!!" but I knew what he meant. He was ready to go!!
Actually Alex is more than ready to go for a plane ride. Alex is ready for anything life will send his way. This 2 year old boy has been such an inspiration for me. Since that trip, I can never say "all set" without laughing and thinking about little Alex and his courage.
Thank you Angel Flight for the opportunity, and thank you Alex for the lesson about life.
John Foster, Nashua, New Hampshire.
Pilots Take Note
"I flew a little girl and her prospective father, when she was going to be adopted by a new family, after she has spent years in various foster homes. . . Spoke with the father after the flight. . .A very moving story with a happy ending."
" I (flew a patient) from DCA to FRG without Angel Flight, the patient would have had to take a flight from DCA to LGA, them transportation to Penn Station then the RR to Farmingdale. I was able to transport from DCA to FRG in 45 minutes. FRG was just 5 minutes from their house. I got tremendous satisfaction from the "thank you's" that I received from all my passengers. Angel Flights are better than any $100 hamburger!"
"(The Flights) remind me of all that I have and how small our efforts to help with flying is compared to the effort of those whose entire daily existence is a struggle."
"Passengers are always so appreciative of my efforts. What they don't understand is that I love to fly and taking them to their destination is fun for me. The real sacrifice would be if I had to stay on the ground."
Patients Help Pilots Too!
Geri is a patient, but not a pilot, who has frequently flown with Angel Flight from Albany to New Haven for treatment. I picked up one of her flights a couple of months ago.
I filed IFR from Albany to New Haven. To no pilot's surprise, my IFR clearance bore no relationship to my requested route. Included in the clearance was the "Tresa" intersection, with which I was not familiar. I didn't think that I let my unfamiliarity show in words or conduct, but, as if on cue, from the back of the plane, Geri all of a sudden says, "That's Tresa, T-R-E-S-A. It's about 10 miles north of Kingstown."
She was right! Who says patients are only along for the ride!
- Tom Clements
As the crow flies...
I just could not figure out why there were so many requests for flights between Martha's Vineyard and Hyannis until I volunteered for one. That 10 minute flight saved the cancer treatment patient 3 hours of traveling. . .and she had to go everyday.
- Philip Gross
Pilot and Patient Reunited After 15 Years
Last spring I picked up a patient and his wife in Boston to take them home to Presque Isle, Maine. After we cleared the Boston area, the wife asked me what I did when I wasn't flying airplanes. I replied that I was a surgeon. The patient then piped up from the back seat, "What did you say your name was?" I told him my name and he said, "You operated on my heart 15 years ago."
The conversation continued and he told me that after his heart valve operation, he returned to laying floors in Presque Isle until 3 years ago when he developed chronic hepatitis and required a liver transplant. At the time of our flight, he was two and a half years since his transplant and still laying floors in Presque Isle. They make 'em tough in Northern Maine.
He also had a very good sense of humor. When we got to Presque Isle, the weather was pretty poor and we flew the approach down to minimums. In the middle of the approach, with no visibility and heavy rain beating on the windshields, he piped up again and said, "I hope this is another one of our successful operations."
-Jeremy Morton, MD
(Dr. Morton was the first surgeon to perform open-heart surgery in the state of Maine)
When asked about their most memorable moment, some Angel Flight pilots responded with the following. . . .
"They are all memorable, but I remember flying a little girl (burn victim) and her mother from Johnstown, NY to BOS on a cold winter day. They were so grateful for the trip, and the girl smiled and hugged me-I WAS HOOKED ON ANGEL FLIGHT FROM THEN ON!!" -Jerry
"After picking up a patient in Boston and dropping him off at the destination airport, there was nobody there to greet him and he had to drive himself home in his own (older vehicle). I felt very sad for him, but was glad that I was able to provide an alternative to driving himself." –Don
"Taking mother and daughter who both had severe growth birth defects yet were among the most positive people I have come in contact with."-William
"JFK to Ohio, Chernobyl children."-Ray
"A flight to Presque Isle with a cancer patient who had just received word that the cancer was gone."-John R.
Moonlight Magic over Nantucket
I flew a mission to Nantucket last December. It was a beautiful full moon, and we were "on-top" so the clouds looked like a fluffy white carpet in the moonlight. It was one of those magical evenings.
My patient was very curious as to which full moon it was so my conversation with the tower went like this:
Us: Cape approach N15406 request.
Cape: Go ahead N15406.
Us: There is an awesome full moon out tonight. Do you know which full moon it is? ... like "harvest moon"?
Cape: (about 3 seconds later ... ) It's the "full cold moon" or "full long nights moon."
Us: Oh, right, that makes sense. How did you come up with that so fast?
Cape: I'm on-line.
As we broke out of the clouds over downtown Nantucket which was covered in snow, my patient said "Wow, it looks like one of those little model railroad villages down there." It certainly did.
Controllers Give Thanks
While flying a patient and her husband from Teterboro to Newport RI, shortly after take off and being handed off to NY Center, the air traffic controller said:"Angel Flight 8086N, thanks for your help. All of our controllers really are proud of the job you and all the Angel Flight pilots do. Keep it up!"
- Todd B. Rosen, N8086N
Sharing the Air with the President
While I am a new Angel Flight NE pilot, I was an active AirLifeLine Pilot for several years. My very first flight as an Angel Flight NE pilot was probably one of the best experiences I've had as a volunteer pilot!
The mission was for Jonathan R. and his mom who were in Pittsburgh, PA for a followup visit while Jonathan awaits a lung transplant. Jonathan and his mom were picked up at Allegheny County airpot (AGC) on a beautiful fall afternoon September 24, 2003 and were eagerly awaiting their return home to New York City.
Jonathan seemed very interested in airplanes so I offered him the co-pilot's seat in the Cessna Skylane. His face lit up!
After getting our IFR clearance back to Essex County Airport (CDW) we taxied out and were cleared for immediate takeoff. Shortly after being cleared on course by Cleveland Center we started hearing inbound traffic to the New York area being issued holds. It seemed President Bush was due to leave the New York area within 2 hours and a TFR was in place covering the entire New York metropolitan area.
As we continued along towards New York at 7,000 feet, Jonathan was a great help scanning for traffic and helping to change radio frequencies while communicating with air traffic controllers along the route. After leaving the Allentown, PA area we could still hear aircraft being issued holding instructions and expect further clearance times thanks to the Presidential TFR. Thanks to our Angel Flight designation, we continued along and shortly thereafter began receiving vectors for a localizer approach into CDW.
Jonathan assisted with the descent into the area and was so very excited to think we were sharing airspace with the President of the United States. After landing at CDW and unloading the plane, Jonathan and his mom continued their journey braving the traffic into New York City on their way home.
- Detective Lieutenant Steven Gutkin
I am a new Angel Flight pilot who joined when AirLifeLine merged with Angel Flight America. I had the pleasure of taking Chelsea M. & her Grandmother Ethel from Boston, home to Atlantic City.
While we were on the ground in Boston, we were treated to watching the Concorde make its last landing at Logan airport. We then watched as the Concorde taxied to the gate under the ceremonial water spray from the airport fire trucks, commemorating its last visit to Boston. What a sight!
- Jan Greenberg