Patient AirLift Services (PALS), a nonprofit volunteer pilot organization, reached a major milestone July 22 when it completedits 1,000th charitable flight flying Afghanistan war veteran and double leg amputee Marine Corporal Jessie Fletcher from Boston to Baltimore.
It’s an intriguing story: A young Florida girl, just 15, is deaf and blind. And she recently got the chance to fly a plane. According to a story in the St. Augustine Record, the flight was coordinated by Linwood Nooe, the director of Operation P.R.O.P., a nonprofit organization that offers free flights to people with disabilities. Nooe started the organization in 2010 with the intention of exposing people to aviation, especially those who may not have ever been able to fly in an airplane.
On a cold and windy February day, LightHawk volunteer pilot Michael Baum and his daughter Kimberly embarked on a cross-country journey from their home in Los Altos, Calif., to help give black-footed ferrets a fighting chance to bounce back from near extinction and rejuvenate the North American prairie at the same time.
Gunnery Sgt. John Hayes of the U.S. Marine Corps is a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls basketball team. His dream of going to a Bulls’ home game became even more remote after a roadside bomb cost him both legs while serving on combat duty in Afghanistan.
While speaking to a public affairs officer at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in Maryland, Joe Howley, president of Patient AirLift Services, realized he could make a difference in the lives of these soldiers and show appreciation for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Through PALS, he could arrange the transportation needed to get them out of the hospital for some R&R (rest and relaxation).
As if being raised by humans in bird suits and taught to migrate by an ultralight aircraft wasn’t challenging enough, a reintroduced flock of endangered whooping cranes now faces a new challenge: Mastering nesting and rearing chicks. But crane biologists and general aviation pilots are banding together to use flights in small airplanes to see if they can assist the cranes and grow this population.
On Monday, Feb. 27, Joy Covey, a LightHawk volunteer pilot from Woodside, Calif., had some very special guests aboard her Pilatus PC-12: Two orphaned, injured mountain lion cubs, who needed to be taken to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Buried in the long-term authorization for the FAA is a provision that will make pilots who fly charitable medical flights happy. The provision allows a pilot to accept reimbursement from a volunteer pilot organization for the fuel costs associated with a flight to provide transportation for an individual or organ for medical purposes.
Ever wonder what would happen if more people could see what we see?
That’s the question the folks at LightHawk pose to pilots during recruiting efforts for the non-profit organization. The question is central to LightHawk’s mission, which is “to champion environmental protection through the unique perspective of flight.”
“We have a way to show other people what we have been seeing for years,” says Greg Bedinger, LightHawk’s pilot outreach manager. “Sharing what we have seen is a powerful tool. We can post videos and photos online, but it is only a substitute for the real images that you see first hand.”
A few years ago, LightHawk was contacted by Wolf Haven International, a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation organization that provides a sanctuary for wolves and also participates in breeding programs and the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program. They needed help transporting the wolves to their new homes.
“FedEx and UPS had been able to handle these transports up until a few years back when airline security changed,” says Greg Bedinger, LightHawk’s pilot outreach manager. “We were able to connect a volunteer pilot who flies a Pilatus PC-12 and within a week we were moving the wolves.”
General aviation alphabet group the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has partnered with Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) to raise funds for their mission supporting our combat wounded. VAC is a charitable organization that provides free air transportation to wounded warriors, veterans, and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes. NATA and VAC established a special fund last year, NATA Wings for Warriors, to contribute to the organization. This year, NATA’s support of VAC has been expanded throughout all of the association’s major 2012 events.