Business Aviation Gives Back
December 1, 2023
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  • One of the hallmark contributions of the business aviation industry is its charitable work, from rescue missions and transport of goods for disaster relief to providing a lift to a cancer patient or an endangered animal so they can lead better lives. Here is a small sample of their stories.

    Angel Flight West

    Angel Flight West’s Extra Legs

    Angel Flight West (AFW) volunteer pilot Eric Chadwick went on a discovery flight in 2018 and was instantly hooked. “Angel Flight West was on my mind from the very first day of flight training,” Chadwick said. “I knew aviation was not accessible to everyone and that learning to fly would be a great way to further my philanthropic ambitions.”

    Chadwick has been a volunteer pilot since 2020, helping passengers travel to their far-off care, with 47 AFW missions flown. Each flight has reinforced his decision to share his aviation skills and resources with the rest of the world. “My first flight was with a child battling cancer,” he recalled. “He’s had an incredibly tough journey, and I had the honor of flying him and his family to his medical appointment and back home.”  

    As an owner of a TBM 940, Chadwick often signs up for long-range missions that would typically require one or two stopping points. Just last month, he flew a passenger from Burbank, California, back home to Hamilton, Montana—more than 1,150 miles when traveling by car. Knowing missions with multiple legs can be difficult to fill, he looks for trips in which he can combine both legs.

    “Eric has been invaluable to our mission, always willing to go the extra mile,” said AFW associate executive director Cheri Cimmarrusti.

    AFW has more than 1,600 volunteer pilots and flies more than 5,000 missions a year. A nonprofit organization, it flies people to their medical appointments at no cost to the passengers. AFW also provides transportation for families and individuals escaping domestic violence, for therapeutic programs for children and veterans, and to children’s specialty camps. This year, AFW is celebrating two milestones: 40 years of service and 100,000 missions flown. To learn more or to donate, visit

    —Angel Flight West

    Rainbow Helicopters and Castle & Cooke Maui relief

    Castle & Cooke Aviation Team Aids Maui

    The Castle & Cooke Aviation team has been at the forefront of disaster relief for Maui in the aftermath of its devastating wildfires. With FBOs in Van Nuys, California, and Honolulu, we’ve partnered with long-time tenants Planet 9 and Rainbow Helicopters to support relief efforts while showcasing how vital general aviation’s flexibility is in times of crisis.

    Our collaboration with Planet 9 primarily focused on transporting essential supplies from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii. Together, we loaded a Bombardier Global Express with relief items such as water and toiletries. Additionally, in conjunction with Avfuel, we donated nearly 3,000 gallons of Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel to help reduce the carbon footprint of this critical flight.

    Furthermore, our dedicated team in Honolulu took charge of coordinating flights with Rainbow Helicopters, ensuring the efficient transportation of essential supplies to Maui. We’ve been supporting pop-up flights between islands and donating relief supplies.

    In the wake of this disaster, we’ve experienced firsthand general aviation’s crucial role in connecting communities during emergencies. These are flights only general aviation operations could have executed in terms of unscheduled flexibility and geographic access. Our team has worked tirelessly during and after the heart-wrenching situation to facilitate these critical operations.

    Those interested in contributing to Maui’s relief efforts can donate via Rainbow Helicopters’ GoFundMe page. All contributions directly benefit the affected community by providing essential supplies.

    —Tony Marlow, president of aviation operations and business development, Castle & Cooke Aviation

    Aero Angel

    AeroAngel’s Christmas Gift

    Most requests for AeroAngel flights don’t come on Saturday evenings, let alone the week before Christmas. But the call from Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh was different.

    A few months before, a social worker contacted AeroAngel—whose mission is to provide free business jet flights for seriously ill children going to and from medical care—to see whether we would take on a flight for a child in need of a kidney transplant.

    Jailyn, 9, who lived in Houston with her adoptive family, desperately needed the transplant. Previous tries to get her to Pittsburgh in time had failed. She was out of options and in declining health. We accepted the request—a first for AeroAngel—even though it came with a very short fuse. Jailyn would need to arrive in Pittsburgh less than 12 hours after the call that a kidney was available.

    Typical AeroAngel flight requests are for children and young adults who cannot safely fly by commercial airline due, for example, to a compromised immune system, physical disabilities, or the need to use small medical devices on a flight.

    To be ready for the call, our flight coordinator compiled a “call list” of potential donors from our network of flight donors across the country who offered to help. When the call for the flight came in about 9 p.m. Eastern time, we scrambled to reach out to flight donors. Despite the late time, we had several viable options in two hours.

    Early the next morning, a corporate flight department would fly Jailyn and her mother from Houston to Pittsburgh on one of its jets. As with other owners, charter operators, and corporate flight departments in our network, Jailyn’s flight donor did so anonymously.

    Jailyn arrived at the hospital in time to receive a life-saving kidney transplant. Although her medical journey continues given her many health challenges, she is back home and living free of weekly dialysis treatments thanks to a successful transplant.

    With Jailyn’s flight in the logbook, AeroAngel has accepted several similar challenging requests in addition to the many requests it continues to receive for flights for children having surgery or needing specialized treatment at a children’s hospital a thousand miles away.

    —Mark Pestal, executive director and founder, AeroAngel

    A Day To Remember for Luxaviation

    Luxaviation UK previously partnered with Signature FBO at Luton Airport to host a group of terminally ill children, giving them a VIP experience of the private terminal and business jets. Sporting Bears Motor Club volunteers, dedicated to raising money for children’s charities through social and touring events, arranged for the group of nine children and their families to arrive at Luton Airport in a fleet of Bentley cars.

    After being welcomed into Signature’s VIP lounge, the children were escorted onboard one of Luxaviation UK’s Embraer Legacy 600 private jets for a 60-minute pleasure flight around the east coast of England. Upon return to the airport, the children and their families enjoyed a lunch supplied by Signature.

    All the children and their families had a special day and were made to feel like VIPs, and the team at Luxaviation UK was honored to play a part in creating these precious memories.

    —George Galanopoulos, CEO, Luxaviation UK

    Turtles Fly Too

    When Turtles Fly

    Berni, an endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle, made history for the rescue charity Turtles Fly Too, completing a trek from Seattle Boeing Field to San Diego International Airport. The 2020 voyage was the first U.S. West Coast mission for Turtles Fly Too, which was founded in 2014 to help relocate the reptiles that are pushed into frigid northern waters.

    Turtles Fly Too began its operations in the Northeast, where every year as summer turns to autumn and temperatures fall, hundreds of the endangered reptiles, swept north on the warm currents of the Gulf Stream, become stranded in the Cape Cod region. Left alone they would soon die in the cold weather, but volunteers collect the turtles from the beaches and take them to the New England Aquarium, where their condition is stabilized. Available space at the aquarium is soon overwhelmed, requiring them to be evacuated to marine animal care facilities in Southern states for rehabilitation before released.

    But Berni was found on the West Coast north of the Canadian border. A Vancouver Aquarium van drove the turtle across the U.S.-Canada border, before a complicated loading process began, aided by the crew at Signature Flight Support. AIN editor-in-chief Matt Thurber participated in the mission to relocate Berni, flying right seat to monitor the turtle. Aviation marketing/communications veteran Jeff Miller piloted the flight of the turboprop single Jetprop DLX).

    The flight crew kept Berni warm, as turtles prefer warm climates, and Berni had suffered from cold shock in the northern waters. The flight to San Diego was two legs, first from Seattle to Reno, Nevada, for a quick refueling by Atlantic Aviation. It took two hours for the flight to Reno, then another two hours to San Diego, and along the way, controllers would ask whether this was the “turtle flight,” likely because the flight plans were filed using the compassion flight callsign CMF1922.

    San Diego Signature Flight Support was ready when the flight arrived, and the Sea World San Diego van was already there, ready with a special crate for Berni’s ride to the aquarium.

    Turtles Fly Too this year marked another milestone, its longest, most complex rescue, involving a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that was stranded in Northern Wales, UK. The multiple-continent flight, which entailed a special permit, transferred Tally to Texas for rehabilitation and ultimately release into the Gulf.