Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thoughts From Some of Our AFW Volunteer Pilots


Our Volunteer Pilots are essential to operations here at AFW, the spinner to our propellers if you will. We simply could not provide compassionate air travel to hundreds of people and families in the West each year without our dedicated and compassionate group of volunteer pilots. We can give you dozens of reasons to volunteer as a pilot and fly with AFW, (actually more than dozens, there are about a hundred missions waiting to be assigned in our region right now), but we know that our Members’ reasons for joining and sticking with AFW are the best reasons. So today we’d like to let some of our volunteer pilots speak for themselves.

Volunteer Pilot Dwight joined Angel Flight West nearly 10 years ago as a way to combine his passion for flying with the joy he feels helping others.  Dwight has fond memories of all his AFW Missions, but one in particular came to mind when we asked him. Dwight said, “I remember a patient named Cynthia whom I was flying from Salt Lake City to Modesto. She commented to me almost in passing as we were saying our goodbyes that she would literally “not be alive if it were not for the repeated generosity of Angel Flight West and their pilots” who were routinely flying her to much needed treatment for a rare illness called pulmonary arteriovenous malformation.  When I called my wife to tell her I was about to fly home I was too choked up emotionally to speak. I was so humbled.”

Volunteer Pilot Rayvon said, “Like many pilots who have worked hard to earn their certificates I’ve found after a while it becomes clear that flying for training, the occasional pleasure trip with the family or just the proverbial $100 hamburger just does not provide a sense of satisfaction they once did. Angel Flight affords an opportunity to upgrade my passion for flying to compassion for others. I can use my skills and equipment to assist others who might not be able to help themselves. The sense of accomplishment after each mission is what keeps me coming back.”

Oregon Wing Volunteer Pilot Derrick’s answer to our question sums it up nicely: “Flying Angel Flight missions allows me to help people in their time of need, while allowing me the pleasure of flying across this great country.”

And Kevin, who flies with the Northern California Wing, said, “Flying for Angel Flight West has not been just something that I do, it’s become part of who I am.”

To become an AFW Volunteer Pilot you need to have you need to have 250 hours as PIC and complete a short ground orientation. After orientation, where and when you fly is up to you. When you have some free time coming up, just browse our Available Missions and choose where you want to go and whom you want to help. All flights are at your discretion, even after they are scheduled and confirmed. We understand personal minimums, and our passengers all know that since you are responsible for a safe flight, we have systems in place should you need to cancel or delay.

Can Angel Flight West become a part of who you are? Why not check out our Volunteer Pilot requirements and join today.

Angel Flight West Call Sign

Angel Flight has obtained permission from the FAA to use a special call sign to indicate that you’re operating on an Angel Flight mission.  You are not supposed to get any preferential handling when flying using the Angel Flight call sign, but it can happen; especially if you ask.  Any AFW Command Pilot can use it, but there are a couple things you should know.

First, when to use it.  You can use the “Angel Flight” call sign any time you’re flying a mission leg with a passenger on board.  Generally, do not use it on the positioning legs on either side of the mission leg. However, if the mission is timing critical, it is acceptable to use it on the repositioning leg to pick up the passenger.  But this should be an unusual circumstance.

Next, how to use it.  Start with the Aircraft ID in block 2 of your FAA Flight Plan.  Use the letters NGF, followed by the last three digits of your aircraft registration number.  My 182 then becomes NGF5CY (said “Angel Flight fife charlie yankee”), and that’s what I put in block 2.  Next, in the Remarks block (#11), put the agency name and your full aircraft registration.  In my case, I enter “Angel Flight West, N735CY”.

That’s it!  Now you’re an Angel Flight!

If you are planning an IFR flight, ask for your clearance using the Angel Flight call sign.  They use the flight plan data for your clearance and, as such, won’t be able to find the clearance under your aircraft’s N number.

If you’re operating without a flight plan, say under VFR traffic advisories, you don’t need to do any paperwork at all.  When you check in with Center, just use the Angel Flight call sign in the same way.  When I get to the whole VFR request, I introduce myself as “Angel Flight 5CY, a Cessna 182/Golf, …”.

Don’t forget to listen up for your new call sign…  The first time I used it, I missed a couple radio calls, since I wasn’t used to listening up for something other than “Skylane 5CY.”  Also, listen carefully.  There is a commuter airline that has a very similar call sign, and it’s easy to mistake Eagle Flight for Angel Flight.  And, don’t forget to use the call sign.  In the beginning I found I automatically replied with my normal N number.

Use your best radio techniques and professionalism when using the call sign, since we don’t want to reflect badly upon the organization.

To ensure we have no confusion about another call sign used for medical transport purposes, let’s discuss briefly the use of “Medevac”  According to the AIM (Section 4-2-4), “Extreme discretion is necessary when using the term “MEDEVAC.”  The FAA recently replaced the term “Lifeguard” with “Medevac.” This call sign is “only intended for those missions of an urgent medical nature and to be utilized only for that portion of the flight requiring expeditious handling.”  Angel Flights almost never qualify under this guidance.  You could consider using it if the condition of your passenger deteriorates en route, but you’ll probably get just as much assistance if you declare a medical emergency.  Tell ATC that you need to get to an airport ASAP, preferably one with medical resources available, and have them send whatever assistance you need.

You are encouraged to use the Angel Flight call sign on all appropriate mission legs, because it can create interest in Angel Flight West.  Perhaps in hearing it, other pilots will endeavor to find out more about Angel Flight West and sign up.


Why Passengers Need Angels

Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.
— Edward Rickenbacker

So how are you doing on those New Year’s resolutions you made last month?  Many of us decide to exercise, eat better, read more.  Whatever they are, all those resolutions usually boil down to one thing: our pledge to be better in the coming year.  But do we stick to them?  What if instead of changing yourself, you used your existing your skills and talents to be better, to do better?

Most resolutions are about changing a behavior, which requires repetition and dedication, two things pilots are very familiar with.  To become a pilot you log hours and you study and you pass your tests and all that effort brings a great change and a great reward: suddenly you have the power to shrink the map.

Once you get your wings, you can travel great distances almost as easily as if you’re going to the corner store for a carton of milk.  Our AFW passengers aren’t as lucky; for most of them travel is nearly impossible.  All AFW passengers have a need to get to a distant airport, but can’t afford the cost of the plane tickets that will bring them to life-saving medical treatment or important respite from their troubles.  Many live in remote areas of the West, and driving to the best doctor, the special needs camp, or to the home of an ailing parent would be an impossible strain on health and resources.  These are just a few of the reasons AFW passengers need pilots to volunteer their skills and aircraft.  You can read more about them here.

AFW passengers are all hoping for a positive change in the coming year, but they can’t do it alone.  Too many of our missions are canceled for lack of an available pilot.  Each of these flights represents a chance for someone.  We vet each passenger for financial and compassionate need; all of our passengers have a compelling need to get to a distant terminal.  Every story is different  and the common element in all of them is the volunteer pilot who commits to giving his or her time and energy to making life a little better, one flight at a time, one passenger at a time.  Click here to learn how you can use your skills to help AFW passengers.  Doesn’t that sound like a nice resolution for the coming year?

The Bingham Family – ‘Against All Odds’

Many of our Angel Flight West families are facing extraordinary circumstances in their daily lives. Our goal is to  ease some of the burden that comes along with serious medical needs by providing free transportation for families in need of a little help. Today, we’d like to share with you the story of the Bingham Family.

The five Bingham children all have a serious heart disease called Cardiomyopathy. Two of the Binghams, including longtime AFW passenger Sierra, have had heart transplants and another sibling has a pacemaker because of this disease. The Binghams’ story was featured as part of a series of NBC’s “Dateline” editions airing in June 2013 about people in remarkable situations. Included below is a link to the episode, which tells the family’s story and showcases their incredible optimism.

Dateline: ‘Against All Odds’, Part 1

The Binghams with AFW Pilot Art


You can follow the Binghams’ blog and learn more about what’s being done for them at:

For more information about organ donation, please visit:

Get Out of Your Flight Rut


Maybe you got into general aviation flying for the thrill of controlling your own wings.  Maybe for the chance to see new places from a new perspective.  Whatever your reason, you’ve logged many hours in the air and on the ground to become a private pilot, and your reward for all that work is the chance to go wherever, whenever.  When you got your pilots license, maybe you were like most of us at AFW and made a list of places you want to visit, and airports to add to your landings list.

So what do you do when your list of exciting new destinations becomes the been-there, flown there list?  What do you do when you and your hanger buddies want a new adventure, a new challenge?  It’s easy to get into a bit of a rut, but here are some ideas for some new flight patterns:

  • Pick three counties in your state to visit.  Then pick the three counties in a neighboring state with similar names.
  • Like barbeque, or tacos?  Are giant balls of string your thing?  You can create a new list of flight schedules based on just about any hobby or cuisine.
  • Want to fly for a better reason?  If you check our Available Missions, we have a long list of destinations to try, and passengers in need of travel to critical healthcare appointments.

Plus, flying for Angel Flight West has perks of its own: Member Benefits and you can meet other AFW Angels in the hangar.  One of your new AFW Volunteer friends may know just the spot for the best barbecue in the West.

AFW Missions are for the benefit of the passenger, but of course all missions are at the discretion of the Volunteer Pilot’s personal minimums.  When you fly, how often you fly and whom you fly are all up to you. We have easy systems in place to request a mission and canceling for any reason is always your choice.  Mission Coordinators are available to help you with every stage.  It’s your aircraft, your donation, and you’re always in control.

If you’re looking for the best reason to fly, consider flying deserving passengers for Angel Flight West. You can learn more about AFW and the passengers we exist to serve. Learn about our Command Pilot requirements and orientation process. Joining AFW is a great way to find new horizons. Ready to explore new destinations? Join Angel Flight West today!

We Give Thanks for Many Things

Christian Lybbert flown by command pilot Dale Lamberton 9.24.13
Christian L. flown by command pilot Dale Lamberton 9.24.13

Christian L. was born a healthy little boy on February 28, 2013.  Once home though, his mom worried that his breathing seemed labored and his color wasn’t right–not like the other three babies she’d had.  She was told several times that if he was eating, he was fine. However, at his two-week check-up, Christian was whisked off to the emergency room after the doctors found his oxygen saturation extremely low.  Multiple tests revealed that Christian was suffering with heterotaxy–a disease so rare that it is diagnosed in only one out of every four million births. Babies born with this condition often have organs that are missing, deformed, reversed in their arrangement or misplaced. They diagnosed Christian with a severe heart condition, a missing spleen, multiple organs reversed in the body and duplicates of these. For example, his left lung was where a left lung should be, but was a duplicate of the right lung.

Christian needed very complicated open-heart surgery. While he has great cardiologists near home, the best pediatric cardiac surgeon on the west coast is at Stanford.  With limited resources and the inability to fly commercially due to his compromised immune system, the family would have been forced to drive from Yakima, WA to Palo Alto, CA–a long drive under the best of situations.

Mom, Aimee, was directed to Angel Flight Georgia, and then to AFW from a heterotaxy support page on Facebook.  With a number of challenges both pre- and post-surgery, AFW was able to transport the family.  While we can debate the merits of social media, there isn’t a more meaningful way to use it than the way this family has done. They are thrilled with AFW and Aimee’s Facebook post is the front page article, 10 Reasons We Love AFW. To find out more about Christian and his battle, see his Facebook page at “Christian’s Soldiers.”