Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Need for Angel Flight West Medical Transportation

Just like a for-profit company, the success of Angel Flight West is predicated on cost-effectively dealing with supply and demand. For us, the challenge is always having volunteer pilots (supply) available when a passenger (demand) needs transportation to medical treatment, but doesn’t have the resources to pay for it. 

After a period of decline, we are now seeing an increase in requests for our free medical transportation services.

There are several reasons for this increase. We updated our web site to make it easier to request flights online. We’re finding that more people are discovering us on their own using the internet, and researching their own transportation options rather than relying on their healthcare providers. Since our web update, we have seen more visits to the site  ( – and, most importantly – more visitors completing the process.

Another reason is a recent survey completed by Social Workers and Case Managers regarding our service.  Their input has provided insight into how we can enhance the process for requesting flights and we are implementing changes.   We are also doing more to publicize who we are and what we do…as exemplified by this Blog, as well as our Facebook and our Twitter presence.  And, we continue to encourage volunteers to “adopt-a-hospital”, establishing relationships in a facility who are familiar with Angel Flight West.

We are also seeing an increase in requests due to the Affordable Care Act.  More people now have insurance to pay for the care they couldn’t afford.   And, the nature of treatments are changing – providing new medicines and protocols to those who previously didn’t have hope.

All this means that we expect the demand for our services to grow in the coming years. So, we need to grow our “supply” of volunteer pilots as well. As a pilot there is nothing more rewarding than to be able to use our skill to help someone else.  Angel Flight West provides the opportunity for us to combine a passion for flight with a compassion for others. We encourage you to join the 1,400 members of Angel Flight West who make a difference more than 10 times each day. (Join now online!) I look forward to meeting you in 2014.

Alan Dias, Executive Director

The Spirit of Giving

During the holiday season, we are all reminded of what a joy it is to give, and also, how much joy a gift can bring. We’re a bit spoiled at Angel Flight West, since facilitating the giving of our volunteer pilots is our daily work. About 10 times each day, an Angel Flight West volunteer gives of himself or herself to provide transportation to someone else in need.

We’d like to share a letter that we received from a recent passenger as a reminder of how powerful and meaningful a gift can be. It was a great way for us to end the year, and we hope you enjoy it as well.

I am so incredibly grateful and humbled by people more often lately than I ever have in my life. If there is a bright side to cancer, it is that it can really reveal the true kindness and generosity of not only the people close to you, but of strangers-especially when we live in such a world today that is viewed as cruel and strangers not to be trusted. I am lucky enough to have witnessed a silver lining to that many times in the last couple of years that I have been battling cancer, but none so great involving complete strangers as my treatment situation 2 weeks ago.

My bi-monthly treatments for stage 4 Kidney Cancer take place through a study being done in L.A. I am living in Southern Utah, so getting to California every 2 weeks for my appointments can be quite a task. I try to drive, but I don’t have the best car to put all the wear and tear on and of course, along with hotel stay and food in California, the gas and occasional rental car costs can add up (not to mention taking that drive every other weekend is just plain tiring!) I am a recent college grad and also just moved away from my whole life in Chicago to Utah recently, so funds for all of these unforeseeable treatment costs aren’t exactly available to say the least. Needless to say, I need help. 

This is why I decided to submit to Angel Flight West to see if I could get ride every once in a while to treatments to save time and costs. My last treatment, I was lucky enough not only to have my father from Chicago there with me, but also that the wonderful Rod McDermott voluntarily picked up my request. We had a delightful, easy flight with this incredibly kind man and were able to get to L.A. in time for my appointment. Unfortunately, complications still often arise with these appointments. One was that we needed a place to stay for under $100 for the night (my treatment study will only reimburse up to $100/night for a hotel) and we were also worried that we would not have a way back home. The weather was bad, so no pilot could pick up my requested flight home, and renting a car in one state and driving it to another would create costs that I just could not afford. Even as a cancer patient, I also have to work, and I could not afford to wait out the the weather in California and stay for days until the storms passed. 

However, the generosity of strangers was about to surprise me again. Rod, my pilot, called the Westin Bonaventure and the gracious people at the beautiful hotel were able to accommodate my father and I for the night. Then Mark DiLullo, the owner of Threshold Aviation, got word of my situation and offered a private driver to take us back all the way to Southern Utah the next day. I could not believe my luck and the immense generosity of all of these people I had never met. I am so thankful that everything worked out so perfectly for me for this originally stressful appointment; I only wish that there was a way I could repay these amazing people and businesses.

What I can do at this moment is write this short letter, humbly thanking the people who were so selfless as to help me out: Angel Flight West, Rod McDermott, Mark DiLullo and Threshold Aviation, the Westin Bonaventure, and the incredibly kind man who drove us all the way from L.A. to California (I feel terrible that I cannot remember his name, because I will always remember his sweet personality and deed.) I only hope that others see this and know what good they did, what good people they all are. Again, thank you.


Preparing Your Family to Fly: Practical tips to get ready for a medical flight

You likely know by now that flying in a 4 to 6 seat aircraft is different than flying commercially. So what can you do to prepare yourself, and your kids, for a private flight to medical treatment or wherever you need our volunteer pilots to take you?

There are a few simple things you can do to keep yourself and your children safe and comfortable on the flight.

Child on Small Plane

Hearing protection: Earplugs or a protective headset are necessary on a private plane to protect your hearing. Even on a commercial flight, you may want to use earplugs to reduce noise, and on a private flight they are essential. Please consult with your pilot, they will likely have extra pairs of headsets. If not, you can buy commercial earplugs at the drugstore. Keep in mind the flight headsets we wear for hearing protection and communication are different from the headphones you would use to listen to music. Regular earphones will not protect against hearing loss. If you are using earplugs for a baby or toddler, it’s a good idea to cover them with a hat or earmuffs, to keep your child from removing them during flight. Of course, please check with your doctor about recommended ear plugs for yourself and your child, and ask if there are any precautions you should take due to a medical condition.

Seatbelts and car seats: All of our Angel Flight West pilots use aircraft that have the appropriate FAA certified seatbelts for adults. If you are flying with a baby or toddler, his or her own car seat is the best option for the flight. If you can secure the car seat in a front facing seat, that may help minimize motion sickness, and will also allow them to enjoy the flight more. Speak with your volunteer pilot or Mission Coordinator if you have any questions or concerns about fitting your car seat into the plane.

Comfort: It gets chilly up in the air, and the rear seat of a private plane is usually a few degrees cooler than the front. Wear layers, and a blanket or sleeping bag is a nice way to make sure everyone can stay warm and cozy.

Air pressure: You will probably feel pressure building in your ears upon takeoff and landing. Swallow, yawn or chew gum to alleviate the pressure, or make your ears “pop”. For babies and toddlers, you can give them a bottle or pacifier to suck during takeoff and landing, which will equalize the pressure in their ears.

These simple additions to your flight checklist will make for a more comfortable and safe experience as you soar with Angel Flight West to better health. Also please keep in mind that private planes are more like traveling in car – there are no bathrooms or catering service on board. For a more complete description of what it’s like to travel on a private plane click here.

For a look at what it would be like to fly with Angel Flight West, check out this short video.

December 18 Photo Gallery

Enjoy some photos from some of our recent missions.

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Shopping to support Angel Flight West

As you’re finishing up your holiday shopping this season, just a quick reminder that you can help Angel Flight West in a couple of easy ways.

If you’re buying items on, please use our link which will tag your purchases and send a portion of the sales our way. If you’re considering joining Amazon’s prime service, which entitles you to free 2-day shipping, now’s a good time to start enjoying that benefit now.

If you’re looking for a gift for the person who has everything, have a look at the Angel Flight West store on Land’s End. We have a variety of gift options for anyone on your holiday list.

Women’s Items

attache Attache case

Thanks as always for your support of Angel Flight West!

How to Choose the Best Medical Treatment Outside your Hometown

If you have cancer or another serious medical condition, you want to have the best possible treatment.  But what do you do if you’re in a small town without specialized care or treatment options? What if you need a second opinion for a medical diagnosis?

The decision to get medical treatment away from your hometown is an important one. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the best decision about treatment:

Review all your options with your doctor.  It may be that the best treatment for you is further than you can comfortably drive, but Angel Flight West can help with no cost flights to medical treatment or other pressing need, so don’t let distance stop you from making the best choice for you and your family.  If you don’t live in one of the 13 Western states Angel Flight West serves, you may be helped by one of our sister organizations.

Take your doctor’s suggestions and ask others about their experiences.  If your doctor can’t connect you to other patients or medical professionals, try reaching out to patient groups or social workers located where you are considering treatment.  If you have a rare condition, look for a national association dedicated to the condition, and you should be able to find a group that can help.  Type your diagnosis plus the word “association” into any search engine for links.

Speaking of the internet, it can be a very helpful or a very scary place when you’re ill and seeking information.  Do yourself a favor and use credible websites for information about treatments or procedures.  Try the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society, or a similar organization for your information search.   If a website is trying to sell you a miracle cure, they may not have your best interest at heart.

Speak with your insurance or Medicare provider about the options you and your doctor have chosen.  Ask for a social worker at the hospital to help you understand the fees and coverage. Make your best decision based on all the information available.

Of course, if you need free medical transportation to treatment, make a flight request to Angel Flight West.  Call us today:  (888) 426-2643.  Or click here to request a flight online. We will need further information verified by a healthcare professional. For more information about making a flight request and all the helpful types of missions we fly, please click here. You may have some big decisions to make, but once you do, our volunteer pilots can help you get there.

Angel Flight West Brings Santa, School Supplies to Utah Children

The Angel Flight West Utah Wing just completed its 14th annual Santa Flight, which brings school supplies to under privileged schools in Utah. Fifteen volunteer pilots flew Santa and supplies from South Valley Regional Airport to Cedar City.

Utah Wing Santa Flight 2013
Santa greets children during the 2013 Utah Wing Santa Flight

The beneficiaries of the Utah Wing's 2013 Santa Flight
The beneficiaries the Santa Flight, students from East Elementary in Cedar City, UT

We got some great press from the event, with many nice pictures and a video from Fox 13 News in Salt Lake City.

Fox 13 News

The Spectrum.Com:

As Cynthia Vavueta waited with her 4-year-old daughter for Santa to arrive at the airport, she said the Santa flight very exciting for her three children because this is the first year Santa has come to their school.

“They couldn’t sleep last night talking about it,” Vavueta said.

The Deseret News:

Fifteen volunteer pilots of the Utah Wing of Angel Flight West departed South Valley Regional Airport on their annual Santa Flight. Their destination was Cedar City, to deliver toys, school supplies, books, backpacks and warm clothing to the nearly 600 children at East Elementary.

Congratulations to the members of the Utah Wing!

Techniques to Help Relax While You Fly to Medical Treatment.

We’ve talked about ways to help a young child get comfortable with the idea of flying in a small plane. But what about those of us rational, level headed adults who have a fear of flying? When you are ready to take your first trip with Angel Flight West, we want you to have a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Angel Flight Take Off

If you’re nervous about flying to medical treatment, you can use breathing exercises to help calm you during your first flight, or when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, or any time you want a little mental break.

You can practice breathing techniques in any setting. To begin, adjust your position to be as comfortable as you can, whether you are sitting, standing or lying down. Then try one of these techniques:

1. Counted breaths: Begin by focusing on your breathing, in and out through your nose if possible. Observe your breath for three in-and-out cycles. On your next inhalation, breathe in to a slow count of three, and breathe out to a slow count of four. Repeat five times. If you can, try to increase your counts, breathing in to a count of four, and breathing out to a count of six.

2. Straw breath: Purse your lips like you are sipping through a straw. This can be relaxed; the point is to make a small “O” with your mouth. Inhale slowly through your mouth, counting if you like. Pause briefly when your lungs are full, and then exhale slowly through your mouth, keeping the O shape during the exercise. Repeat your inhale and exhale, sipping the air in and out as if through a straw. You may notice the air coming in feels cooler than with regular breathing.

3. Tension and release: If you’re nervous, your muscles are probably already a little tense, so you’re already on your way to employing this next technique. To begin, take a deep breath in, and make fists with your hands (careful of your fingernails). As you exhale, release your fists and relax. Breathe in again, make fists, and clench your arms to your sides, holding the tension all the way up into your shoulders. Exhale and relax everything. Repeat as much as you’d like. If the setting allows, you can extend the tension and release to your legs, neck and shoulders and even scrunch up your face on an inhalation, and relax your whole body as you exhale.

For any of these techniques, your eyes may be open or closed, and you may repeat the breathing method for as long as you like.

All of these methods can be practiced just about anywhere to help you calm your fear of flying, and they’re all pretty subtle. If you’re waiting in the lounge for your flight with one of our commercial partners, no one will notice a little breathing practice. And if you’re with one of our Angel Flight West volunteer pilots, we don’t mind breathing and we’ll do everything possible to make you comfortable on the flight as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of our pilots, or let them know that you’re a little nervous. They can often help by explaining what’s going on.

Questions to Ask your Doctor about Flying for Medical Treatment

It’s always a good idea to prepare a list of questions for your doctor’s appointments, so you can think about what you want to know before you’re in the stressful setting of a doctor’s office. If you are flying with Angel Flight West for surgery or medical treatment, here are a few questions to help you and your medical team plan your trip:

1. How soon can I fly after surgery or treatment? The time may vary greatly depending on the procedure you are having. Your care provider must provide a medical release stating that it is safe for you to travel. You must also be able to walk and step up into the aircraft.  To find out what to expect click here.  Ask your doctor about recovery time so you can properly plan your flight home. For a full list of our requirements click here.

2. Is supplemental oxygen recommended for my condition? Private planes are not pressurized like commercial flights. Ask your doctor if there are any concerns.

3. Do I need specific care for stitches or a surgical site?

4. Will I be taking home medical equipment or other luggage, such as liquid medications? Our pilots need to calculate overall weight and have limited cargo space, so it’s important that we know what to expect.

5. What can I do to improve circulation during the flight? Are compression socks recommended for someone with my condition? Are there seated stretches or movements I can do during or before the flight?

6. Are there medications I should take or avoid before the flight? Ask your doctor about use of all prescription and over the counter medications before and after your flight.

7. Flying with our volunteer pilots reduces your exposure, but if your Angel Flight is with one of our commercial partners, ask your doctor for suggestions to prevent picking up a cold from one of your fellow passengers. There are many simple ways to prevent infection from crowds.

If you are flying with Angel Flight for medical treatment or have a persistent condition, it is important to discuss your travel plans with your hometown doctor and also with the medical professionals at your destination. Get the best travel advice from your doctors, so that your “angel flight(s)” can be an effective leg of your journey to health.

Resources to Prepare Your Child for Flight on a Small Plane

Kid and Plane 1

Once your Angel Flight West Flight request is vetted with a healthcare professional and approved by an AFW coordinator, we will start preparations to connect you with one of our volunteer pilots, and you’ll be ready to take the next steps on the wings of “angels”. If the flight includes a small child, here are some materials to help prepare your child for their very first flight, or their first flight on a small plane.

Flying in a 4 to 6 seat airplane is a different experience from commercial air travel. The planes are not necessarily pressurized and do not have climate control the way our commercial airline partners’ planes do. There will be new noises and you may feel the rolls and bumps as the aircraft works with wind and weather patterns. At the same time, you will have the most amazing views you’ve ever seen. We love it up above the clouds, and want you and your kids to feel the same wonder on your “angel flight”.

Here are a few books and videos you can share with your young children to help prepare them for their very first flight with Angel Flight West. We hope to make your flight(s) a highlight in your healing process.

Airplane Flight!: A Lift-the-Flap Adventure by Susanna Leonard Hill, with illustrations by Ana Martin Larranga. This airplane shaped board book recommended for ages 2 to 5 tells the story of a commercial flight in rhyme, illustrated with beautifully simple drawings. Your child can “lift the flaps” within the book to emphasize and interact with parts of the story, such as opening the wing flaps.

Away in My Airplane by Margaret Wise Brown. A lovely story of a solo pilot in a prop plane, this book has you flying through a lovely dreamscape of animals and beautiful sights. Written by the author of Goodnight Moon, this book is recommended for ages 2 to 5, and is suitable for very young children.

My First Airplane Ride by Patricia Hubbell, illustrations by Nancy Speir.  This book tells the story of a young boy’s first flight with his family. It gives excellent descriptions from a child’s perspective of the airport and security (good if you’re on a commercial flight) and what to expect in terms of noises and sensations on the plane. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.

Ask your local library about these and other books about flying and riding in airplanes. These books are also available on Amazon.

This video is of a dad taking his 9 year old daughter and toddler son for their first flight. The view is inside the plane, focused on the pilot and the kids, and includes two takeoff and landings. Dad chats with his daughter very informally about what they see outside.

As with any material, we recommend you preview these books and videos before sharing them with your child, so you are prepared to answer questions or address your child’s specific concerns.

We hope these materials will help you prepare your child for journey with Angel Flight West. To help you prepare, here is a good article that discusses the practical aspects of flying with a small child.

Angel Flight West and its volunteer pilots and commercial airline partners are part of your road to recovery. If the medical treatment that’s best for you or your child is in another city or state,  and you meet our qualifications, you can request a free flight and we’ll do our best to help you. A 400 mile trip may seem out of reach, but for a passionate pilot with a private plane, it gives them an opportunity to do what they love, to help someone else in need. We will do our best to make the flight an exciting and interesting experience; hopefully a break and an opportunity to get up and away from the daily grind of illness and treatment. We want to take you above the clouds and make the impossible distances shrink into possibility.

For more information about making a flight request and the types of missions we fly, please click here.