Category Archives: Angel Flight West Pilots

Stories from and about Angel Flight West member pilots

Pilot Testimonial: “Why I Choose Angel Flight”

David Hopkins is a command pilot for Angel Flight West in the Northern California Wing.  He is  passionate about volunteering for AFW “not only because of the needs that it serves, but also because it is so rewarding to be closely in touch with the people you are trying to help.”  Check out David’s awesome testimonial video below to learn more about why he chooses to donate his time, resources and flying skills as an Angel Flight West pilot.

To learn more about volunteering at Angel Flight West, please check out our pilot information page.

2014 Top Flyers

Congratulations on another outstanding year for Angel Flight West! Your help and support in 2014 enabled Angel Flight West to continue its invaluable work in arranging free air transportation to those with critical healthcare or social needs.

Included below are our top-flying pilots from each wing for the 2014 calendar year. We are so thankful for each and every one the 1700+ volunteer pilots who make our “miracles of flight” possible. YOU make hope and health possible for people who otherwise would not have access.
1 2 34 5 6 7 8 9 10 1112 13




FAA Mandate Changes Usage for NGF Call Sign – Effective January 1, 2015


We apologize for the delayed announcement on this change. Please contact our office if you have any questions/concerns after reading the following information.

Effective January 1, 2015; all volunteer pilots who use the NGF call sign while flying passengers on behalf of Angel Flight West MUST use NGF in conjunction with the AFW designated organization number (6 and 7) and a designated pilot number that will be assigned to you by Angel Flight West.  This change affects all Air Charity Network organizations across the country. AFW is a member of the Air Charity Network.  This mandate will eventually impact all public benefit flying organizations. The “ANGEL FLIGHT” telephony will continue to be used when flying AFW passengers; in conjunction with the new NGF call sign usage.

The present FAA order and usage of the NGF call sign will expire on December 31.2014.

Pilots must NOT use NGF plus the last digits of their tail number after 12.31.2014.

This change is the result of issues identified by ATC and FAA. Which include, but are not limited to:

  • ATC unable to establish communications with an unidentified aircraft/pilot
  • Use of the call sign when a pilot was NOT on an angel flight
  • Use of the call sign in airspace outside the U.S. or flying 3rd party foreign registered aircraft
  • A problem with the algorithm of the current usage (when a letter follows NGF it does not show up on Flight Aware)
  • Pilots without a flight plan or flight following; flying into secure airspace.

The FAA supports the use of the call sign for charitable flights and worked jointly with the organizations of Air Charity Network towards a suitable solution.

Although some angel flight organizations require the use of the NGF call sign on their angel flights; Angel Flight West will continue to request that pilots use the call sign on a voluntary basis. AFW encourages pilots to consider the safety advantages while transporting ill and injured people. There are specific benefits to using the call sign:

  • To give pilots access to special handling by ATC. This provides a measure of safety and security for passengers who may be having difficulty on the flight due to medical reasons and gives pilots the opportunity to identify those needs to ATC.
  • To encourage pilots to file a flight plan or flight following when flying a charitable flight for ground and inflight operations in U.S. airspace.
  • For authorization of flight operations by pilots during disaster response flights.
  • To increase the value and awareness of public benefit flying and ANGEL FLIGHT within the aviation community.



  1. Review the Flight plan example attached to this email.
  • Angel Flight West’s unique ID is #6 and 7 (due to the size of our membership we     needed 2 numbers) (NGF6 or 7).
  • Each pilot will be issued a 4 digit number starting with #6 or 7. (For example: NGF6133 or NGF7122)
  • Pilot numbers will currently show up on your Mission Assignment Form and in the future will be found in your pilot record. You can send an email to to receive your number, or just wait until your next mission assignment and it will be on the form.  
  1. Using the NGF call sign when flying passengers on behalf of Angel Flight West.
  • Filing a flight plan or flight following is strongly encouraged by AFW.
  • In Box #2 write NGF followed by your unique NGF number issued to you by AFW.
  • In Box #11-Remarks- write ANGEL FLIGHT and the tail number of the aircraft.
  • Use ANGEL FLIGHT and your NGF# when identifying your flight to ATC.

Angel Flight West will NOT disclose a list of pilot NGF numbers to the FAA; however, AFW is required to maintain a 24/7 telephone access for ATC and FAA should they need to identify a pilot/aircraft using an NGF call sign and any relationship to an AFW mission.

The letter from the FAA and other supporting documentation can be requested from Angel Flight West at The FAA Advisory Circular, outlining the change is AC- #120-26K (available in 2015); which is based on FAA order 7340.2 (Revised November, 2014). 

TIP: Your NGF number will be in your AFIDS pilot account. We will announce when this change happens. When you have your number, write it on a sticky note and put it on the dashboard of your aircraft. (This is what commercial and military pilots do when their flight is identified by a unique flight number). 

TIP: Flight plan. Although pilots may be inclined to write their tail number in Box#2 (and not use their NGF number) while placing “ANGEL FLIGHT” in the Remarks section; FAA does not recognize this as appropriate use for the ANGEL FLIGHT telephony to identify a charitable flight. ATC may NOT give the pilot special handling without their unique NGF number in Box #2 along with the ANGEL FLIGHT and their tail number in the Remarks box. 

This FAA change for NGF call sign is effective January 1, 2015. 

*Attachments* – PLEASE READ

AFIDS + FltPlan.Com Integration

Attention users:

We’ve integrated AFIDS with so that you can automatically post any flight plans you file on to AFIDS. This lets us know about the flights you are already planning so we can see if your route matches with any of our upcoming flights. If there is an opportunity to combine your planned flight with an Angel Flight mission, we’ll let you know.

The process is simple. You provide us with your username. Anytime you file a flight plan on, we get it automatically, no additional steps on your part. If you don’t want to receive alerts from us anymore, just let us know and we’ll remove your username from the system.

We know that many times you file your flight plan right before the flight. We encourage you to file earlier, when you first plan a flight, then update it right before the flight. The edit process is quite simple on, and then we’ll get the advance notice we need to make a potential match.

To provide us your username, you can send it to us by email at, or update your pilot information in your account settings in AFIDS.

We hope that this makes it easier for you to combine your flying with community service, which is what we’re all about. We’d love your feedback. Also, a big thanks to the folks at who worked very enthusiastically to make this integration possible. We’re in discussions with ForeFlight and others to get the same kind of integration in place.

From the Cockpit: So. CA Command Pilot, Pete Bernardin

Besides flying medical missions around California for Angel Flight West, I occasionally fly for Pilots and Paws and for Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD) – a non-profit in Palm Springs that trains and delivers guide dogs to the visually and physically impaired. These organization are tops in their respective fields, and sometimes I’m able to combine missions in a two-for-one event. Recently, I had such an opportunity flying two young boys from the Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, and then on to Oakland to pick up a golden Labrador Retriever and fly her back to Guide Dogs of the Desert.

Pete Bernardin

The trip to Palo Alto was uneventful, and twenty minutes later I checked into Oakland to pick up Daisy, the guide dog. I knew nothing of Daisy’s history and was totally unprepared for what was to come next. Daisy had been trained by GDD and delivered to a lovely woman in Oakland more than six years ago. Now, at eight-and-a-half she was being retired as all working guide dogs must, and my job was to return her to GDD in Palm Springs. The dog’s owner, Rebecca, both visually and physically impaired, arrived with Daisy and two friends. When the five of us walked out to the airplane, I was beginning to appreciate what a momentous moment this was. Daisy and Rebecca were inseparable companions for six years – 2,190 days – and this was to be the last one.

The unsuspecting dog was happy, but very protective of her master as we slowly walked out to my Cherokee Six. I opened the back door and patted the left rear seat. Daisy looked at me, then to Rebecca who nodded, and Daisy jumped on board. We waited a moment then closed and latched the door. Rebecca assured me that Daisy would be a good traveler, gave me a leash, some dog food and a couple of Daisy’s favorite toys as tears streamed down her face. The anguish of the moment was almost unbearable. As we taxied, Daisy whimpered and looked back, her nose pressed against the window. I felt like a heel.

I discovered that the dog had no interest in food or toys, or as it turned out, no interest in me either. I’m a dog person, and can usually sweet-talk my way into a friendly relationship with most dogs in a couple of minutes, but not with Daisy. It was a long flight and she never slept. She just sat stoically in that seat for nearly three hours. Whenever I talked to her, she turned her head away; she was having none of me, thank you.

On the arrival in Palm Springs, Daisy couldn’t get out of that damn airplane fast enough. Because we were late, I was surprised that the pick-up person from GDD wasn’t there. A few phone calls revealed that he had to cancel at the last minute, so the Executive Director of Guide Dogs was on her way. In the FBO lounge we were positioned so that I could see the street entrance down a long corridor about 40 feet away. Soon, a woman came through the door. “Daisy” she cried. The dog literally leaped two feet in the air, pulled the leash right out of my hand, and streaked down the hall to meet her. In a moment, they were all arms and paws wrapped around each other, a dog-tail-wagging-crying-face-licking blur. Turns out, she had trained Daisy six years ago, and that bond is like a mother/daughter thing; it never goes away. What a scene. I’ll never forget it. When a dog retires, they are brought back to the Guide Dogs for a reorientation, and after a while placed up for adoption.

Public Benefit aviation is full of stories just like this. I sometimes think the chief beneficiaries are the pilots. I mean flying your airplane and helping people and dogs all in one day – does it get any better than this? And in the end, you feel just wonderful about what you and your airplane have been able to do.

Utah Santa Flights

Today, AFW planes flew from Salt Lake City to Cedar City to bring Santa and school supplies to underprivileged Utah children! Angel Flight West has been doing Santa Flights in Utah for over 10 years now. Every December, AFW team up with local Boy Scouts to provide school supplies for a rural Utah school.

Total Numbers:
– 6,000 pounds of donations
– $4700 in cash and checks
– 20 planes
– 1 Santa [thanks Tim Miller!]

Thank you to all of the amazing pilots, elves, Boy Scouts, and other volunteers who made Utah Santa Flights possible. Check out some cool photos below!

Steve scouts SF Donations SF Santa kids SF scouts santa stage SF Santa elves on stage SF kids outside

#GivingTuesday Surprise

AFW had a wonderful #GivingTuesday yesterday, December 2. For those that don’t know about #GivingTuesday it is global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world came together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

One part of AFWs #GivingTuesday was a great news segment on KGUN 9 Tucson Morning Blend about Angel Flight West and one of our frequent flyers, 8-year-old Mason. Angel Flight West pilot Scott Lehman, from Premier Auto Center, surprised Angel Flight West with a $5K donation and also surprised Mason’s family with a car, so that they are able to make some of their appointments when pilots are not available.

You can check out the news segment here: Premier Auto Center – Angel Flight Donation. Also included are some great photos from Ken Carr at KGUN 9. THANK YOU to Scott, KGUN 9 and all those involved.

Flying ‘angels’ rally around Reno cancer patient


8-year-old Emily Zimmerman is a frequent flyer with Angel Flight West, and recently heard some great news from her pediatrician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital on the grounds of Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. After battling a brain tumor since last October, her scans had come back clean.

“It’s like being on Team Emily — you share strength and support while working through the challenges, and then the elation and genuine happiness when those challenges are overcome. It’s been a privilege and an honor to be a part of Emily’s journey.”
– AFW Member/Co-Pilot Jackie Gaertner

To read more about Emily’s inspiring story, please check out this great article by guest author Kathleen Masser for the Reno Gazette Journal.

You can follow Emily and her story on her Facebook Page.

“Watsonville ‘Angel’ Pilots Kid to Camp”

This past weekend pilots flew campers to Camp Pacifica, a camp for deaf and hard of hearing children and their siblings. 18 volunteer pilots flew kids from various airports across California to the Atwater Airport (MER) in Merced, CA to drop them off for camp. One of our AFW pilots, Rayvon Williams, took Donna Jones, Santa Cruz Sentinel staff writer, along as his mission assistant. Donna met Ravyon’s passenger and flew along with them to get the full Angel Flight West experience. Check out (link included below) Donna’s great article on the flight itself and the true importance of volunteer flying.

Watsonville ‘Angel’ Pilots Kid to Camp