Angel Flights are flying people to the medical services they need

Jul 27, 2023, 4:09 PM

angel flying medical...

From left, Command Pilot Jim Higginson, Angel Flight West passenger Mary, and Jim, a volunteer pilot (Photo courtesy of Angel Flight West)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Flight West)

There are angels among us. These particular angels work with an organization called Angel Flight West. Their mission is to arrange donated flights for people in need and provide safe passage to and from medical care throughout 12 Western U.S. states, including Washington.

Transportation is often the greatest challenge to healthcare, particularly for those in rural areas far from commercial airports, second only to the cost. Angel Flight West volunteer pilots fly people to their medical appointments at no cost to the passenger.

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Once reaching an airport near their medical facility destination, the transportation challenge is not over. Volunteers called Earth Angels meet the passengers and drive them to and from their medical appointments also at no cost. Then, Angel Flight West pilots fly them back home.

The small number of Angel Flight West mission operations staff make all the transportation arrangements, according to Communication Manager Jessica Hayes.

“There are different reasons why they may request a flight. Some patients live in rural areas, might not live near a commercial airport, or cannot financially afford to fly,” Hayes said. “For the immune-compromised, flying commercially may not be the best option for them. We work to coordinate each mission, to find the right pilot for the right mission to the right place.”

Now in its 40th year, Angel Flight West has grown each year as they establish more partnerships with healthcare facilities and other organizations. The organization also transports blood to blood banks.

“While we are mostly known for flying patients to medical care, we do also fly for other reasons,” Hayes noted. “We’re able to respond after natural disasters by relocating displaced residents, transporting relief supplies, and transporting rescue workers. We also have a strong relationship with the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. We’ll fly a canine candidate, a rescue dog, to their headquarters in Santa Paula, California.”

During Angel Flight West’s 40th anniversary, they will fly their 100,000th flight this year. Last year, they completed 5,000 flights.

“We also fly domestic violence survivors to new locations,” Hayes continued. “During the summer, we fly children, including young burn survivors and children battling cancer and other medical conditions with their siblings, to specialty summer camps that are tailor-made just for them. They can have a safe and unforgettable summer with the help of our volunteer pilots and their caring camp counselors that they might not have the opportunity to have.”

Angel Flight West cannot perform these charitable transportation efforts without their nearly 1,600 volunteer pilots.

“We are constantly recruiting qualified pilots. Our volunteers find this to be the perfect opportunity to merge their passion for flying with their desire to help people,” Hayes said. “They either own or rent aircraft and donate the cost of operating the flight, including fuel. They all come from all backgrounds. Not to mention, they also volunteer their time and talent for each flight. A lot of them tell us they get more out of it than our passengers, and that is always touching to hear.”

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Angel Flight West is a 501-C3 non-profit organization. Each flight is a product of the donated time and resources from generous volunteer pilots and the coordination and outreach effort from the staff. The easiest means to donate is through their website.

Angel Flight West is best known for linking passengers to valuable medical resources but also transportation for other humanitarian purposes, including individuals and families escaping domestic violence, disaster relief, therapeutic programs for veterans, and children’s specialty camps. There are angels among us, with so many more needed.

Follow Ted Buehner, the KIRO FM news meteorologist on Twitter 

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Angel Flights are flying people to the medical services they need