When people think of aviation, they think of commercial flights, business activity, and cargo. Yet, in my world of public benefit flying, every time I see a small aircraft buzzing by overhead, I think of a patient or an organ or blood supply getting to a community in need.
Public benefit flights are donated by volunteer pilots who give their time and use of their general aviation craft to those in need. For example, I have had the privilege and joy of flying for Angel Flight and Flights for Life for six years. Angel Flight works to connect volunteer pilots with patients who need assistance reaching medical care. Next to the direct cost of treatments, travel is the greatest expense for a patient.
That’s where Angel Flight steps in: a general aviation pilot volunteers their aircraft to fly patients to their appointments for free. Because they can fly into smaller local airports and with greater flexibility in scheduling, general aviation helps alleviate the stress of a long road trip or a commercial flight. In addition, United Blood Services partners with Flights for Life in New Mexico to help rural areas run drives and transport donor blood.
These are just a few examples. General aviation helps businesses to transport personnel and tools; it supports farmers and ranchers to maintain and survey their crops and cattle, and it facilitates disaster relief in times of crisis. It is an integral part of a public infrastructure that makes sure that we connect rural and urban areas alike.
It is why our public transportation system must remain that way, overseen by Congress to ensure that these community needs do not come in second to profit driven priorities of our largest commercial airlines. That is why I oppose a recent push to privatize air traffic control and hand authority over this system over to a private board dominated by the biggest airlines.
Our aviation system is currently the largest and the most diverse in the world, supporting many different forms of flying that support charitable, humanitarian and rural community needs. Let’s make sure to keep it that way.
Art Tangen is a Wing Leader for Angel Flight West & Angel Flight South Central, has flown 100 Angel Flight charity missions, and is a board member of the New Mexico Aviation Aerospace Association.