Earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic shell shocked the American health system, volunteer pilots did what they do best–they climbed in their airplanes and set out to make a difference. Charitable aviation organizations all across the country have stepped up to help communities in need. A recent impact survey conducted by Air Care Alliance shows that volunteer pilots in their network have flown nearly 2800 flights in support of pandemic relief so far.
“There is a spirit of compassion and service that lives in the heart of every volunteer pilot,” says, Kristinia Luke, executive director of the Air Care Alliance. “And our member organizations are nimble. They know the needs of the areas they serve and they know what an asset general aviation can be. Those pieces together create incredible impact.”
On the east coast, groups like Angel Flight East are delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to rural health systems and frontline workers cut off from traditional distribution chains. Further south, Angel Flight Soars and Pilots for Patients have teamed up to speed up the results of coronavirus testing. Angel Flight Central, Angel Flight South Central, and Aerobridge are all meeting PPE needs. On the west coast, pilots for Angel Flight West are delivering critically needed supplies to the greatly impacted Navajo, Hopi, and Hualapai Nations; and CalDART has delivered ventilators to overwhelmed hospitals near the Mexico border.
Other volunteer pilot organizations are seeing their missions impacted as well. LightHawk, an environmental organization, has arranged flights to help conservation partners deal with the effects of the pandemic–taking aerial video to allow them to create virtual tours of their conservation projects. Pilots N Paws, an organization that normally transports endangered animals, has continued their mission despite the pandemic, and has even seen requests to transport animals whose owners have died from the virus.
With COVID-19 best practices in place, many organizations continue to transport patients who are most in need of accessing life-saving care. Concerns over commercial airline travel for immune-compromised patients has made this alternative more important than ever.
“The role that volunteer pilots play in response to humanitarian needs is significant.” says, Jim Hesseman, President of the Air Care Alliance. “Whether it’s helping communities recover after disasters, or the everyday flights made to help patients, animals, and others in need, volunteer pilots provide a lifeline. This pandemic has highlighted the ability they have to make the world a little better.”
About Air Care Alliance
Air Care Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public service organization supporting the work of volunteer-based charitable organizations whose members fly to help others. ACA’s mission is to promote, support, and represent public benefit flying through communication and cooperation among organizations facilitating flights for health, compassion, and community service. ACA represents over 50 volunteer pilot organizations that form a vibrant ecosystem of service through aviation. ACA encourages volunteerism among pilots and ensures that charitable aviation remains a viable resource to those who need it most. To learn more visit aircarealliance.org.