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Mission reports

Randy’s Alaska Air Angel Flight

FROM A PASSENGER by AFW Passenger Randy F.
Excerpt from AFW Winter 2015 Newsletter

I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in June 2014. I started chemotherapy the day after I was diagnosed. My oncologist let me know that I needed a bone marrow transplant and that they do not do these transplants in Hawaii. I needed to go to a facility on the mainland.

Fortunately for me, my brother was a match and we chose City of Hope in California for the procedure. The bone marrow transplant took place November 2014. I was in the hospital for one month and then two more months close by so City of Hope could monitor my progress. After approximately 100 days post-transplant I was released to return back home to Honolulu in February 2015.Untitled

I found out about Angel Flight West from my insurance plan case manager. I was asking her about the out-of-pocket airfare expenses I was going to have to pay to fly from Honolulu to L.A., and if it was covered under my insurance plan. She indicated it was not, but that there were several nonprofits that donated flights for cancer patients.

She sent me a multipage list of several different organizations to contact and mentioned that AFW was probably my best bet. When I first read how AFW works with pilots and plane owners donating their time and aircraft to patients needing transport, I did not think it applied to Hawaii since no small planes would make the journey! I went ahead and completed the “Request A Flight” on the angelflightwest.org website just in case, and received an email back with a phone number to call requesting more information. I called and provided the requested information but didn’t hear anything further.

On my next appointment with my oncologist, I asked his office manager, Gemma, about it and she indicated that AFW would want something from the doctor to indicate medical necessity and that she would take care of it.

A few days later, my wife was contacted by AFW saying we were approved for travel and that they would book a flight for us. We just had to let them know where and when! It was a Godsend! They booked a flight for both me and my wife to LA on Alaska Air. They told my wife when we were done with the bone marrow transplant and the doctor released us to go home, to call them for the return trip!

Four months later we called and they booked our return flight again on Alaska Air–no problem! The whole experience was nothing but great!

What did this flight mean for me? Having AFW cover our airfare to and from California from Honolulu was a huge help. Since both my wife and I had to leave work during this whole procedure we had no income, and with the added medical expenses growing that we were incurring, funds were extremely tight. Not having to worry about how we were going to pay for airfare was an enormous relief!

 

alaska

 

DONATE MILES TO ANGEL FLIGHT WEST

 

Safety Above All Else

Angel Flight West Command Pilots provide a great service for their passengers.  They volunteer to provide transportation because they want to help others.  Along with the desire to help comes the responsibility to ensure a safe trip.  Angel Flight West wants all Command Pilots to keep safety at the forefront as they plan and execute their missions.  With that goal, this section covers some of the key safety aspects to be considered when flying AFW missions.

Safe missions start with a pilot’s expectations or lack of expectations.  With that in mind, no pilot is expected to:

  • Accept any particular mission
  • Fly or continue a mission in the presence of any doubt about completing it successfully
  • Compromise safety in any way in order to complete a mission

Canceling a mission is considered a demonstration of good judgment and will never be criticized.  If these three tenets are kept in mind, then a pilot can expect to have an enjoyable time participating in Angel Flight West Missions.

Passenger Safety and Comfort

Angel Flight pilots often carry neophyte or low time General Aviation passengers.  These passengers may have concerns and fears and need some knowledge and personal management to ensure their comfort and safety.  To ensure the passenger’s safety and comfort, the pilot should:

  • Introduce general aviation to neophyte passengers.  The time spent providing a general explanation about flying to a passenger while doing an abbreviated walk around will often assuage a passenger’s concerns and fears.  One media induced misconception from both television and movies is that if the engine was to stop; an aircraft would immediately go into an almost uncontrollable dive.  A short  light hearted explanation that an airplane operating without an engine is simply a short winged glider can often abate that misconception and minimize any nervousness.
  • Manage your passengers on the ramp.  Passengers often don’t know about the dangers that airplanes present (like invisible spinning props).  Escort your passengers to and from your aircraft, making certain that everyone is under control.  This is especially important with children.  Make certain that your engines are shut down prior to enplaning/deplaning, and manage your passengers so they remain clear of other aircraft, whether the engines are operating or not.
  • Complete a thorough passenger briefing.  FAR 91.519 requires that a pilot provide a thorough passenger briefing for all passengers on every flight.  A good briefing includes explaining seat belt and shoulder harness operation, operation of entry doors and emergency exits, location and use of survival equipment, life jackets, and life vests, the use of oxygen masks, as well as what the passenger should and shouldn’t do during the flight.  From an operational standpoint, the passengers should be briefed on how to use headsets (and where to place the mic), the intercom (if equipped), the pilot’s preferred hand signals, and so forth.  Pilots should be prepared to communicate with passengers that are blind, deaf, or those who speak a language other than that which the pilot speaks.  For deaf passengers, ensure a paper and pen are available.
  • Seat belts on all passengers.  Seat belts should be worn at all times.  Young children and babies MUST be in appropriate children or baby seats and these seats should be attached to passenger seats and oriented correctly for the age of the child and type of seat.  No child seat should ever be attached to a front seat.
  • Sterile cockpit as required.  Passengers should be told that from engine start through the climb to cruise altitude is considered a “sterile cockpit” time where the passengers should only speak to the pilot if there are personal problems or issues or to assist the pilot (e.g. pointing out other aircraft).  The same “sterile cockpit” rule should apply from the pilot’s specified point on the descent to the destination through engine shut down.  The pilot should explain to the passenger(s) how they should get the pilot’s attention if they do have a problem or issue, and should notify the passenger when it is appropriate to speak freely.
  • Monitor weather conditions.  The pilot should continue to monitor weather conditions throughout the flight, especially if weather conditions warrant.  The pilot should use Flight Watch (122.0), an FSS, and/or onboard satellite weather.  If there are any questions regarding the weather, the pilot should create an alternate strategy, which may include returning to the departure airport, diverting to an alternate, or holding for the weather to clear.  If the weather makes a successful completion of the flight questionable, the pilot should discuss the weather and the options with the passenger and, together, agree to an alternative strategy.  Remember, however, that the Pilot in Command has the final decision.  A safe conclusion to any flight is the ultimate goal.
  • Monitor fuel usage & requirements.   During the flight, the pilot is expected to continually monitor fuel consumption and remaining fuel.  This becomes even more important if there are weather or other issues that may require a diversion or holding.
  • Use ATC/aircraft resources.  The pilot should avail himself of ATC’s resources if and when there is an issue of safety.  The passenger(s) can also be used as a resource where desirable.  For example, asking the passenger to watch for other airplanes is always a good use of the passenger.
  • Monitor your passenger’s condition.  Being constantly aware of your passenger’s condition can mean a great difference in the success of a flight.  If your passenger is uncomfortable for whatever reason, it is the pilot’s responsibility to initiate a response.  Often that will mean nothing more that providing fresh air or changing to an altitude that is smoother.  But if the passenger is physically uncomfortable, it might mean diverting to another airport or returning to the destination.  In extreme cases where the passenger’s condition might be life threatening, it might require declaring an emergency and flying directly to an airport located near suitable medical facilities.  If you encounter a questionable situation, declare an emergency and use the “Lifeguard” call sign.

The Eight Deadly Flying Sins

Studies done by the AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation and other organizations have identified a finite set of causative factors that lead to the majority of accidents with injuries and fatalities.  The ASF’s 2007 Nall Report statistics state that pilots were the cause of 73.8% of all GA accidents and 79.1% of all fatal accidents.  If a conscientious pilot avoids the following traps it minimizes the likelihood of an accident.

  • Fuel Mismanagement.  Fuel mismanagement constituted nearly 9% of all GA accidents.  Whether it is running out of fuel or fuel starvation even though there is fuel onboard, this type of accident happens nearly twice a week and is almost always avoidable.
  • Overloaded and/or Out of CG.  General aviation aircraft are reasonably limited in terms of payload and CG.  Each aircraft’s documents contain the aircraft’s official “weight and balance” paperwork so the pilot can ensure the aircraft as loaded is safe to fly.  An overloaded aircraft doesn’t perform at POH performance values, the stall speed is higher than normal, and an aircraft that is out of CG can be uncontrollable.
  • High Density Altitude Operations.  All pilots should always be aware of the performance robbing effect of density altitude.  Density altitude is an insidious danger because it doesn’t have to be particularly hot for it to have a major impact on an aircraft’s takeoff and climb performance, especially at heavy weights.
  • Takeoffs and Landings Accidents.  Although typically not deadly, landings and takeoffs are responsible for an inordinate number of accidents each year.  According to the Nall Report, almost 57% of all accidents happen during takeoff or landing.  Not surprisingly, a full 40% happened during landing.  Wind and turbulence, unextended landing gear, loss of control, and midair collisions on final, are some of hazards of airport operations.
  • Maneuvering Accidents.  Maneuvering flight has been the number one cause of fatalities in general aviation.  During the last ten years, more than one-quarter of all fatal accidents happened during maneuvering flight.  Low altitude maneuvering accidents are usually fatal and often, but not exclusively, the result of a pilot operating an aircraft in marginal weather conditions.
  • Continued VFR Flight into IMC Conditions.  Almost always deadly, and not just the purview of VFR pilots, continued VFR flight into IMC conditions is usually 100% fatal to non-instrument rated pilots, and surprisingly enough, claims instrument rated pilots as well.
  • Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).  CFIT accidents are usually attributed to IFR operations, but CFIT accidents also happen during VFR operations, especially at night.
  • Must Complete the Flight Mindset.  Also referred to as get-home-itis, pilots of all ratings and hours have succumbed to the desire to complete the flight and ended their flights in a tragic way.  AFW’s passengers and missions can encourage an unaware pilot to fall into this trap.

Angel Flight West’s Potential Risky Mindset

AFW pilots are subject to all of the Eight Deadly Sins listed above, but the one that may be most compelling to an ”angel flight” pilot is the last one, a pilot’s desire to complete a flight in the face of risk.  After all, an AFW mission isn’t just a personal flight, it is a flight to help someone in need.  The pressure to complete the flight might come from some of the following motives:

  • Carrying an Unknown Person as Passenger.  It is sometimes more difficult to disappoint a stranger than someone you know.
  • Awareness of Passenger’s Personal Needs.  As an “angel flight” pilot we want to help our passengers.  The more we know about the person and their needs the more we want to make sure we deliver them to their destination.
  • Signed up for the Mission.  Pilots have a strong personal motivation to complete what they start.  When a pilot signs up for a mission, it is their nature to complete the mission.
  • Personal Obligations Afterward.  If a pilot has personal obligations after a mission, there will be pressure to complete the mission.
  • Proximity to the Destination.  The closer the aircraft is to the destination, the greater the desire to complete the flight.

Read more HERE!

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

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR ALL ANGEL FLIGHT WEST PILOTS:

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.

 

NEW CALL SIGN USAGE EFFECTIVE 1.1.2015 

  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 coordination@angelflightwest.org 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 coordination@angelflightwest.org. 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

Passengers’ Feedback

After each mission, we send out a Mission Feedback Survey that passengers can fill out to share their experiences with the Mission Operations Team. For many patients traveling to and from treatment, transportation is a significant burden that could block their ability to receive the care that they need. Angel Flight West pilots can make a huge difference in passengers’ lives by volunteering their own skills and resources as pilots. Below are some recent comments from AFW Passengers!

Adrian – New Mexico

Adrian Duran flown by Kyle Scott 11.27.12

Without your service I probably wouldn’t be where I am with getting back to my life. All the pilots are all so kind and very professional . Angel Flight is a organization of all great people. Your center to make flights are all top notch. Thank you so much.

 

Lori  – Southern California

Hi Angels 🙂 I’m sooo grateful for your flights, ground angels, and your wonderful emotional support. It’s hard to say anything could have been better. It made a very difficult time for me so much easier to deal with. Also, I enjoyed the flights.

 

Pamela – Idaho

I’m so grateful for Angel Flight. I cannot sit that long… 60-90 minute flights are so much better than a 5 hour drive. The pilots always made me feel safe. It has been a great experience for me.

 

Daniel – Arizona

We have flown with Angel Flight West since 2011 and have always had great service… I’d like to thank all pilots that donate their time and planes, they’re my husband’s angels.

 

Noah – Northern California

Noah R flown by Christopher Bennett 3.14.14

The pilots and angel flight program were awesome. Every experience was absolutely wonderful. The pilots were very caring and made us feel very comforting in the sky and as well on the ground. God bless the pilots and angel flights.

Get Out of Your Flight Rut

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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!

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 http://afids.angelflightwest.org/request-a-flight to request a flight.

 

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.

 Melanie