Monthly Archives: January 2014

First Flight on a Small Plane – From a Teen’s Perspective

Angel Flight West flies patients of all ages to medical treatment. This week, we are going to focus on what it is like for a teenage patient flying to treatment with volunteer pilots. In 2013, Angel Flight West pilots flew a total of 485 flights for 172 passengers age 12-18.  Some of these teens were flying for the first time with AFW and some were longtime passengers continuing their treatment.

Kody took his first flight with Angel Flight West on January 16, 2014 from Nevada to California. Kody is a 16-year-old boy with Stage IV Melanoma. After taking time off from work to care for him, Kody’s parents were not in the financial position to afford travel to a very important clinical trial consultation appointment at UC San Francisco Medical Center.  Kody and his family turned to Leslie, Director of Programs and Services at Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation, for help and were able to set up a mission request with Angel Flight West. We caught up with Kody to find out more about his first experience as an AFW passenger.

Kody and Carmen before their first Angel Flight.
Passenger Kody and his mom Carmen before their first Angel Flight.

Before traveling with AFW volunteer pilots, Kody expected a fast, comfortable flight – a much easier alternative to a long drive from Northern Nevada to San Francisco. He explained that “it meant a lot as it cut a 16 hour round trip into about 4 hours… it was great for my parents because they didn’t have to take extra days off work.” Flying with Angel Flight West really eases the burden for passengers like Kody who may not be able to make a long trip by car. For Kody, traveling long distance meant he “got to fly in four different planes and see places [he] normally drives by look so different from the air.”

Flying in a small aircraft with a volunteer pilot donating their time, money, and aircraft to help those in need can also be a fun experience for passengers. Kody reported that “it was really cool to fly for the first time. I got to fly some of the planes. The pilots explained all of the different controls.” Flying in a small aircraft really gives a passenger the opportunity to see what goes on in-flight. AFW passengers are able to hear the pilot communicating with air traffic control, witness the use of different controls on the dashboard, and sometimes fly a plane for the first time as a “co-pilot” like Kody did!

Angel Flight West volunteer pilots provide non-emergency air travel for passengers of all ages – ranging from infants to teens, like Kody, to adults. The flights donated by AFW pilots enable patients to receive vital treatment that might otherwise be inaccessible because of financial, medical or geographic limitations. If you know someone in need of charitable travel for healthcare, please have them visit to request a flight.


AFW Membership Dues Policy

I understand you have questions about Angel Flight West’s (AFW) membership dues policy.

At its inception 30 years ago, Angel Flight West’s founders wanted each volunteer to be committed to our mission and have a stake in the organization. An important component of membership is having all who join pay a nominal application fee of $50 and then, in subsequent years on their anniversary date pay annual dues, currently $35, again a nominal amount.  Making a small annual dues payment is a strong indicator — to Angel Flight West and the person joining — that s/he is serious about membership in the organization.

The annual dues allow us to definitively identify and track membership. It provides the mechanism for a pilot to affirm his/her annual commitment to abide by both Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and AFW policies and procedures which provide AFW the means to make a good faith effort to comply with the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). As a result of several fatal accidents involving other Angel Flight organizations, the NTSB recommended that all volunteer pilot organizations have in place a process by which their pilots affirm currency and compliance with the FARs—what AFW has been doing for years.

As Angel Flight West grew we took on a role not envisioned by the founders: that of a leading Volunteer Pilot Organization (VPO) contributing to the growth of public benefit flying groups across the country as well as general aviation. This support has taken many forms, including providing—at no cost—our Angel Flight Information Database System (AFIDS) to other VPOs and significantly contributing to the recommendations of the NTSB in response to the accidents previously mentioned.  AFW’s Command Pilot Orientation and Culture of Professionalism program are serving as a model of how a VPO can educate their members about safety. In addition, completing our Command Pilot Orientation now qualifies a new AFW Command Pilot for FAA Wings Program Credit.

You as an individual can, of course, take a tax deduction for every AFW mission you fly.  From a tax-deductibility standpoint, most pilots find the first mission they fly more than offsets the application fee and that one mission a year more than offsets the nominal annual dues.  Of course, you should always consult your tax adviser or the IRS to determine and verify what is deductible.

The application fees and dues also partially offset AFW’s cost of processing new members, the clothing item each new member receives, and the cost to produce the Angel Flight West newsletter. In addition, the application fee and the dues themselves are partially tax-deductible by AFW’s status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

In summary, the dues support administrative costs and provide an important link in keeping us in compliance with our safety guidelines as well as go towards the support of other VPOs and general aviation.


Blue skies and tailwinds,

Alan M. Dias

Executive Director


What Passengers Don’t Say

Understanding Our Passengers
By Josh Olson

Upon finding a pilot for an Angel Flight West (AFW) mission, the AFW staff frequently calls the passenger only to hear. “I never heard from a pilot, so I scraped together money from friends and family to buy a commercial ticket,” or “I started driving yesterday,” or even, “I canceled my appointments.” This type of response is really frustrating, both for staff and pilots. We work hard to fill these flights and pilots work hard to free up their schedule and time for AFW missions.  So why does this so frequently happen? What can we do about this to help our pilots?

AFW instructs and informs new passengers at least three times as to how our process works and what to expect. The first is through their social worker or medical provider. The second is through a volunteer phone call that goes through an extensive script. The third is direct contact from the staff as their mission approaches.  Obviously, if they call us to check-in as instructed, or if a pilot calls them upon signing up for a mission these are additional points of contact.

Yet with all of these points of contact, the passenger and often their family member companions are still in a daze. They have been diagnosed with a rare illness or have been fighting a disease and the results have overwhelmed them. They are trying to balance their work and home life with new rounds of medical treatment in a foreign area and they can simply become dazed.  They often have what we call “selective hearing” or they hear what they want to hear. For better success and less frustration as a pilot, we will detail some practical ways to help the patient and the AFW coordination staff in this process.

1.  Frequent and clear communication is important.  Pilots often assume that the patient is well versed in how AFW works, which is often not the case.  As soon as you sign up for a mission, call the passenger; no matter how far away the flight is.  Then call again a few times, time permitting, before the flight.  Include in your conversation weather considerations, timing, and what to expect.

2.  On your initial call, verify all of the information on the mission form is correct.  In particular, verify the scheduled dates and times for the flight.  Ensure that the planned arrival time allows enough time to reach their appointment/meeting, verify the passenger’s contact information (especially mobile or last minute contact, whether the passenger knows the planned airport and meeting point, etc..  Provide your contact information and encourage them to contact you should anything change.  Also be sure they have ground transportation and lodging arrangements taken care of ahead of time and have them contact the AFW coordination team if anything changes.

3. Pilots sometimes like to wait until closer to the date of the flight to sign up for missions because they want to make sure weather is acceptable.  Some pilots say they do this because they don’t want the passenger to have “false hope” that their flight will be covered, or that someone with de-icing equipment will sign up.  We would encourage the opposite. Sign up when you have a date available regardless of weather. We just don’t have that many planes available for last minute bad weather trips.  Also, the passenger would rather know a pilot has signed up for the mission and then have a later conversation with the pilot if weather forecasts or some other factor indicates the flight might not happen.

4.  The passengers we are dealing with are frequently in dire situations socioeconomically, physically, and mentally. They can flake out. They can have bad contact numbers.  They can say one thing and mean another.  A lot of this can’t be avoided. However, your AFW mission coordination team is here to help! Call us. You are not bugging us. It is our job and pleasure to help you!  We can chase down numbers, track information, translate Spanish, and give you some more information.  On the same note, we want to hear of questionable behavior by passengers. Whether they show up very late, are disruptive, not responsive, or possibly undeserving, we want to know so we can act accordingly. We have checks and balances in place during the intake process but we can certainly miss a few folks or run into someone taking advantage of our services.

We hope this helps give a little more insight into the passengers we serve and reduces the frustration of canceled flights.  We all want to serve as many passengers as we can, as efficiently as we can.  We thank you for all of your service and help on your end. We will continue to work with you to make the best use of your invaluable piloting resources.

Endeavor Awards: Celebrating Public Benefit Aviation


The Endeavor Awards will be a red carpet celebrity black-tie event that will honor, recognize and celebrate public benefit aviation and the good flying does.  Major entertainment and dinner will fill out an evening highlighted by three awards, all supporting people and organizations that have committed resources and assistance to public benefit aviation – free flights flown for humanitarian reasons.


Host Committee

Mark Wolper, President & Executive Producer of the Wolper Organization, Chair of Endeavor Awards Gala Host Committee

Edward Asner, Actor & Winner of Seven Emmy Awards

William S. Ayer, Retired Chairman, Alaska Air Group

Dr. Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of XPRIZE

Alan Dias, Executive Director & AFW Command Pilot since 1995

David T. Feinberg, MD, MBA, President of UCLA Health Systems

Tom Gallagher, Member, Angel Flight West Board of Directors; Chair, Development and Advisory Committee

Michael Herman,  Founder and Chairman, North American Communications

John and Martha King, Co-chairmen and Co-owners of King Schools, Inc.

Clay Lacy, Founder/CEO of Clay Lacy Aviation

Benjamin Marcus, Co-Founder & Partner of jetAVIVA & Aerospace Capital

Scott Paraynski, 5-time Shuttle Astronaut and Spacewalker; Chairman, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

John L. Plueger, President and Chief Operating Officer of Air Lease Corporation

Tom Poberezny, Chairman Emeritus of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)

Sean Tucker, Renowned Oracle Team Airshow Performer and Pilot; Honorary Chair of Young Eagles

Robert Zemeckis, Award Winning Film Producer and Director



Endeavor Awards will be held at The Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion in the California Science Center on May 4, 2014. Dinner and the event will happen right under the Space Shuttle Endeavor. This exciting location will surely resonate with those who love flying.

photo 1

Shuttle - Event 1



The tickets for this event are on sale TODAY January 15, 2014!

You may purchase tickets here:

Angel Flight West from Parents’ Perspectives

Many Angel Flight passengers are children traveling to treatment that is not available to them locally. We’d like to share some letters that we have received from parents as a reminder of the generosity of our pilots. As one parent notes, flying in small aircraft can be a really amazing experience for both children and their parents. It also takes a huge burden off of parents seeking to give their kids access to needed medical treatment. These letters serve as a great reminder of our mission as an organization as well as exemplify how awesome our pilots truly are!


My name is Ruben. l am writing this letter to Angel flight West. My son is a frequent flyer with angel flight his name is Adriel. They have been helping us since 2006. We appreciate the time that the pilot’s and the team at Angel flight do for us. My son was diagnosed in 2005 with Muscular Dystrophy. We have been going to UCLA for his treatments.l am really grateful for the team and for the pilots that take there time to help family’s like us. Angel Flight has helped my son these last few years taking us to UCLA. In 2010 the doctor’s disabled me so it has been hard for us to travel to UCLA – I’m no longer able to drive so I depend on Angel Flight to help me take me son for treatment. My son loves the flight he gets to see the pilot that help him. I want to say thank you to all the pilots for their time to help Angel flight. And also I’m thankful for the team of Angel flight for helping us in the time of need.



Dear Angel Flight,

The work your organization is doing is remarkable! Thank you for your efforts to book a flight for my daughter to Baltimore so she could see a specialist at the John Hopkins Vaculitis Center. She was not receiving the care she needed here in Oregon. It was not for lack of her doctors trying – they just didn’t fully understand her rare musculitis disorder. Dr. Leo at John’s Hopkins put my daughter on an incredibly strong drug regimen of chemotherapy and immunosuppression. It has only been 3 weeks since we returned and she is already feeling and looking better than she has for over a year. We are so very blessed that your organization saw the need for patients to travel to receive the proper care. Your generosity and hard work enabled us to get the answers we were so desperately seeking. We can’t thank you enough.


Karen and Alexa



Dear Angel Flight West,

I just wanted to write in let you know you provided me and my son Jesse a flight to Palo Alto, CA on 2/17/2012 for his Dr. apt with Rayvon. I wanted to say thank you very much it was the most beautifulest experience to see all the mountains and snow and everything. It was the best experience we ever been on. My son was truly happy and thankful. Also the pilot Rayvon was a great plot. So thank you once again and look forward to flying again in the future.
Thank you! 🙂 


Misty & Jesse



To Don (Angel Flight West pilot)

My daughter and I wanted to take a few minutes and say thank you very much. Out of the kindness of your heart you have gone above and beyond your generosity to help us. We can’t thank you enough for what you have done. I hope some day to meet you in person so we can thank you. Thanks for making Ashley’s trip easier and making it possible for her to get her treatment. From a mother’s heart, thank you. May God bless you and your family for the wonderful things you do.

Tina & Ashley

Help support free medical transportation with a donation

What if you had a very sick baby and even though life saving medical care was available, it was far from your home and your family didn’t have the resources or the stamina to reach it?


Aimee, the loving Mom of a critically ill little boy, Christian, found a solution. Read her
“Top 10 Reasons why we love Angel Flight West”

10.Fly with AFW and learn to say “niner” instead of “nine.”

9.Christian’s immune system is weak and a commercial flight risked illness. So, it was a 15-hour road trip or AFW.

8.Unlike commercial airlines, AFW lets us bring a cooler of fortified breast milk and medication.

7.We could travel with oxygen tanks.

6.If Christian didn’t do well for any reason, AFW safely landed the plane.

5.The AFW pilot volunteered his time, plane and fuel costs, and was actually Christian’s grandpa’s cardiologist. Who could be better?

4.The views are incredible. Breathtaking. Our pilot was thrilled that AFW gave greater purpose to his beloved hobby.

3.I could send Google map locations, photos and texts during our AFW flight – even as we landed!

2.The AFW pilots flew on Christian’s schedule – even when we had to reschedule.

1.AFW helped us at one of the most stressful moments in our lives, giving us “the lift we needed” to take care of Christian.

Love, Aimee

As you count your own blessings at this time of year, please support AFW with your contribution so we can serve more passengers like the adorable baby Christian. This will give us “the lift we need” so we can help everyone who needs transportation to receive critically important medical treatment.

Your contribution makes it possible to:

  • Recruit volunteer pilots from all over the western states.
  • Get the word out to community services and medical providers that free air transportation is available to all those who need it.
  • Arrange the transportation of passengers to medical care, children’s special needs camps and other humanitarian services

Every dollar you contribute to Angel Flight is matched by four times that amount in donated expenses from volunteer pilots providing transportation to care that improves and saves lives.

Please send your contribution now. Little kids like Christian can’t afford to wait.


In the Hanger: Jill Dannis

Jill Dannis
Jill Dannis

Jill Dannis is one of our newest mission operations coordinators. She originally came to AFW as an intern in the spring of 2011 after seeing a job post from AFW on the Loyola Marymount University student career services website. As an intern that spring, Jill did general office work while also training to be a mission coordinator to assist with the increase in flights over the busy summer months. She worked at AFW as a mission coordinator during the summers of 2011 and 2012, mostly working on summer camp mission coordination. She was offered a full-time position as a mission coordinator upon graduating in May 2013 with a degree in Sociology.

Jill had been heavily involved in community service in college and interested in nonprofits as a result of her studies in sociology, so she was looking to combine her interests. After graduation she thought she might do a year of post-graduate service abroad, but through her previous work at the organization she had “gotten really attached to AFW, so when the offer came it gave me an opportunity of doing service in a more permanent way.”

AFW has also given Jill a chance to “see what a great impact the organization has on both the passengers and pilots–not only the people who are going to treatment, but it also gives meaning to the pilots and what they like to do.” AFW thanks Jill for helping to continue the service we provide.