David Walker’s recent flight to Tampa to pick up two Angel Flight Southeast passengers was no ordinary mission.
On Oct. 27, the Ocala resident flew his Beechcraft Bonanza to transport Frank Steed and Liz Self home to Stuart, marking Walker’s 500th and 501st volunteer mission for the Air Charity Network Affiliate.
Walker joined Angel Flight Southeast’s network of 650 volunteer pilots in 2004 and has averaged about 42 missions each year.
The milestone 500th flight is the quickest of any other pilot in the organization’s history, according to officials.
Angel Flight Southeast volunteer pilots donate their time, aircraft and fuel for each mission. The charity fundraises to cover additional aviation-related fees and administrative costs.
Both Steed and Self receive specialized medical care at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and have relied on Angel Flight Southeast multiple times to get them to their lifesaving treatment.
Walker lives in a quiet aviation community where each mission begins by taxiing his plane down his driveway, into the street and around the corner to the grassy runway he shares with his neighbors. His volunteer work has taken him all over Florida.
“I’ve been to Miami about 35 times, but most of my flights are to Tampa because many of the people are going to the Moffitt Cancer Center,” said Walker. “There are so many needy people with problems and it makes me feel good to help them.”
“David exemplifies the dedication of our volunteer pilots,” said Steve Purello, CEO of Angel Flight Southeast. “When you think of the number of hours and his own money that he’s donated to fly people he doesn’t know, it is amazing. Because we fly people as often as they need it, pilots like David become friends with their passengers and they also become invested in their treatment and survival.”
Walker’s dedication has not gone unnoticed. He’s been named Angel Flight Southeast’s Pilot of the Year five times. The “Pilot of the Year” honor is based on 14 criteria that include flying and sometimes driving sick passengers, answering last minute transportation requests that may come in the middle of the night, and flying round trip flights and waiting during the patient’s appointment.