Angel Flight in Jeopardy
July 24, 2009
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  • Nicole Lasorda, Special to the Sun

    Each month, volunteers from Angel Flight West fly patients needing specialized medical care, including chemotherapy and dialysis, to hospitals around California. Many of these patients are from rural areas and would otherwise be hard-pressed to receive the care they need.

    These flights are part of General Aviation (GA), which includes all flying except the scheduled airlines and the military. Right now GA is being imperiled by Congress. If proposed legislation is enacted, the outlook could be grim for patients who use Angel Flight West as well as for millions of other people throughout the country who depend on General Aviation for services and jobs.

    Among Congress’ proposals are direct user fees, which would impose a charge on GA planes each time they use an airport. For Angel Flight West, this could mean fewer pilots volunteering, which would cause rural patients to drive long distances to receive the specialized care they require.

    The legislation would involve not only medical volunteer organizations. With an estimated 65 percent of General Aviation flights conducted for public service and business, many industries and services would be affected, including agriculture, emergency medical evacuation, law enforcement, forest-fire fighting, package delivery and the Civil Air Patrol.

    In addition, millions of jobs depend on GA, which pumps more than $150 billion into the U.S. economy. In fact, two members of Congress deem GA so essential that they formed a caucus to educate their peers on its value to the American economy and transportation system.

    On April 20, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the world’s largest pilots organization with more than 415,000 members, launched General Aviation Serves America. The goal of this national grassroots campaign is to educate policymakers, opinion leaders and the public about the vital role GA plays in our local communities and our nation’s economy. Actor and avid pilot Harrison Ford has volunteered his services in support of the campaign.

    We hope the public is interested in this story about GA and its impact on citizens of California. Without it, volunteer organizations like Angel Flight would not exist.

    In the meantime, please take a few minutes to visit to learn more about the General Aviation Serves America program.

    Saving Lives

    The scenario – a severely injured accident victim needs urgent medical care. They must be rushed to a trauma center 40 miles away or they’ll perish. Yet the surface roads and highways are clogged with rush hour traffic. The solution? A medical evacuation flight.

    Medevac flights provide rapid air transportation and advanced medical care for critically injured and ill patients in life-threatening situations. Crews are composed of highly experienced pilots, flight nurses, and paramedics trained to handle virtually any medical emergency and to conduct rescues in any type of terrain.

    In many cases, the swift availability of a medevac will literally save the day.

    Volunteer Patient Transport

    Many cancer and burn patients, including adults and children, need months of long-term care. In many cases, these patients need highly specialized or experimental care that is available only from major urban medical centers.

    Yet, as is often the case, these patients have no way to reach the care they need because the airlines don’t serve their local communities, or they can’t afford the costs involved.

    General Aviation (GA) pilots, working through dozens of charitable organizations, volunteer their time, money, and airplanes to fly these patients and families between their homes and the medical care facilities. Other volunteers help complete the trip by providing ground transportation on each end of the flight.

    Volunteer Organ Transport

    At any given time, thousands of patients are waiting for organ transplants. Many of these organs must travel to the recipient located hundreds of miles away.

    The same General Aviation (GA) pilots who fly patients also volunteer their time, money, and airplanes to fly these gifts of life to patients in need. They’ll also fly critical blood products, anti-venoms, and medicines to hospitals and medical centers throughout the United States.

    Flying Doctors

    Many outlying rural communities lack routine access to health care. As a result, many doctors and nurses in the United States and the world will fly to these towns and communities. Once onsite, they’ll provide medical exams, inoculations, and training to local practitioners.

    These flying doctors, like many other pilots, use General Aviation (GA) to help improve the world and the lives of their fellow human beings.

    Date: 2009-06-09