Feature Image Above: A recent Angel Flight mission accompanied by my daughter Abby (far right).
How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Among my aviation-related goals for 2018 were 1) develop a plan that will create discipline in keeping my flying current and sharp, and stick to it, 2) fly at least one charitable mission per month for Angel Flight,
3) add a rating, and 4) convert my logbook to an electronic one, preferably on my iPad, and 5) do more flying in my pristine little 1975 Cessna 172M, an aircraft that has been in my family since new and in which I originally earned my license.
This column is mainly about goal No. 2, although I plan to share how I’m doing on my other goals later this year. You know, it’s that accountability thing where if you write down your goals and announce them publicly, it will motivate you to actually follow through with them.
Angel Flight Central, headquartered in my hometown of Kansas City, serves people in need by arranging charitable flights for health needs or other humanitarian purposes. The organization serves a 10-state region and collaborates with other Angel Flight organizations across the country to connect flights.
While I have been signed up as an Angel Flight pilot for a couple of years, I have any number of reasons, er excuses, of why I hadn’t become active: I had the wrong airplane, didn’t have time, or missions conflicted with other commitments. I decided late last year that was going to change, and as a side benefit it would help me achieve goal No. 1 above: fly regularly to stay sharp. The responsibility of flying Angel Flight passengers makes you tighten up you preflight planning, organize your flight bag a little better, show up ahead of schedule and have your plane in tip-top shape. While I strive to do those things with every flight, I can tell you there is a difference between when you are flying just yourself or you are flying Angel Flight passengers. They have been through some incredibly tough times: brutal cancer treatments, surgeries, tests and long days and nights away from family and home. Because of that, you make a conscientious effort to be your best. You want this trip to be the least stressful thing they must deal with.
Since November, I’ve completed three missions – all of which have been rewarding. The patients and their families are thankful for the volunteer efforts of pilots. One patient, who is fighting liver cancer that has spread to his bones, served in the Navy during the Viet Nam war as a radar operator aboard a mine sweeper. Spotting my Naval Academy shirt (yes, I’m THAT mom), we struck up a conversation about his service and that of my daughter’s. Having had a lifelong fascination with aviation, he was thrilled when I invited him to sit up front with me in the copilot’s seat. He asked great questions and learned how to follow our flight path on ForeFlight with my iPad. He promised me that after he beat this horrible disease he would sign up to be a mission assistant or a ground transportation angel. I told him he could fly with me anytime.
When I signed up for Angel Flight, it seemed like a great way to give back while keeping my flying skills sharp. But it’s had a much deeper impact on me. It’s made me realize how abundantly blessed I am – we all are – as pilots and aircraft owners. In this current season of cultural crassness and shout-downs, I’ve found peace and purpose in this kind of flying. It is what I can do, right now, to make a small difference.
As for my other four 2018 goals, I’ve got 11 months make it happen. Now that you’re in on it, guess I better get started.