Category Archives: Seasonal

Seasonal or holiday posts

Santa Claus is Latest Pilot to Join Angel Flight West

Angel Flight West is pleased to announce the addition of a new volunteer pilot to its membership rolls: Santa Claus.

The holiday icon cited a number of reasons for signing up. “Mrs. Claus and I understand how difficult it can be to get medical care when you live in a remote location. There’s not much in the way of specialty treatment at the North Pole, and that can be a burden for the elves.”

When he learned that Angel Flight pilots provide free transportation, using their own planes, for people with medical issues and other urgent human needs, and that many of those flights involved children, his dimples seemed to deepen.

“Children!” he exclaimed, his voice booming. “That is truly wonderful. All of my flying is for children. Many of them bring me treats, and a lot of them write to me. This will be a great way to help them out.”

At first, Angel Flight West Executive Director Josh Olson was skeptical. “When I asked about his plane, he said he’s one of the few who is type rated in sleigh, and that it’s approved for use in more than 190 countries. That’s impressive. Not even Cessna has that kind of acceptance.”

Olson adds, “He assured me capacity wasn’t a problem. Compared to the load he usually carries, a family of four passengers or more on their way to get medical care that they might not otherwise receive wouldn’t be a problem at all. I asked how many horsepower the engine had and thought he was being modest when he said he doesn’t really measure it in horsepower, it’s actually reindeerpower. Eight.”

At present, Mr. Claus only flies one night out of the year. Flying for Angel Flight will also give him the hours he needs to stay current on his pilot’s license.

During their conversation, Claus said, “I know what you’ve been thinking. And I agree. It’s a privilege — like a gift — to be able to help others and bring them happiness, comfort and joy.”

It’s clear he understands the real spirit of Angel Flight.

Angel Flight West has received member applications from hundreds of men and women over a span of more than 30 years. The names change, the aircraft are different, but each of them comes to Angel Flight prepared to offer the gift of hope, care, and concern to those for whom a donated flight can be a lifetime — or a live-saving — experience.

And to all a good night.

Recap: Harris Ranch Fly-In

Over 100 people gathered at the Harris Ranch Restaurant on Saturday May 31st to enjoy an afternoon of fun and good food.  Several pilots were given awards and Josh Olson, the new Executive Director of AFW gave a “State of AFW Address.”

Southern California Command Pilot Randy Bresnik regaled the crowd with stories of his long career in aviation, beginning with his father – aka Amelia Earhart’s photographer.  His presentation included some amazing pictures of his career in the military and law enforcement and ended with the story of his son, Randy Bresnik, Jr., and his career as a shuttle astronaut.

There was a terrific lunch buffet, a small auction and an opportunity drawing, where one lucky winner walked away with two round trip tickets on Alaska Airlines! We made nearly $3000.00 to help Angel Flight West continue to serve those passengers who so desperately need to get to medical treatment.  Those funds allow the AFW Staff to continue to coordinate those flights – giving you – the generous and compassionate pilots – the opportunity to fly!  Without you – we don’t exist.

Thanks again to the Harris Ranch folks for their generosity in waiving so many of the fees and for providing us with a great venue and terrific food.  And many thanks to George Morse and his crew for the speedy and organized manner in which that many planes get in and out of that small air park!  




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.


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!

Thank You From Angel Flight West

Jodi G. flown by command pilot Dennis Phelan 6.23.13
Jodi G. flown by command pilot Dennis Phelan 6.23.13

November is a special time to remember the good parts of life, and the people who help make them possible. At Angel Flight West we are continually grateful for the hundreds of volunteer pilots and our commercial airline partners who provide free travel to those in need of compassionate travel assistance. While our pilots do much of the heavy lifting, each mission we fly include dozens of volunteers on ground as well.

We are grateful to our office volunteers, people who give their time to help make all of Angel Flight West’s operations possible. People like…

Alan Cohen
Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen, a retired attorney,  who has been volunteering with Angel Flight West for three years, when he’s not pursuing his other passion, studying Catholic literature, especially from the Middle Ages. Alan tells us he loves volunteering at Angel Flight because it is a way of serving God in a meaningful way in the community. He enjoys helping us care for the seriously ill, financially needy, and desperate persons in society by assisting the Angel Flight staff with office work. Alan is especially helpful in finishing necessary office projects to help keep everything running smoothly and efficiently at Angel Flight West. Thank you Alan.


Fern Goldstein
Fern Goldstein

Fern Goldstein. Fern says she enjoys the environment and the warmth generated by the people that work at AFW. Fern’s favorite part of volunteering is the good feeling she gets from helping others, especially children needing help. Spoken like a true retired LAUSD kindergarten teacher! Thank you Fern, for helping AFW help those in need of medical transportation or other compassionate travel assistance.


Ari Lissauer
Ari Lissauer

Ari Lissauer. Ari is a student who has been a regular at the Angel Flight West office since 2010, coming in every week to help us with needed office work and those very important mailings for fundraising and outreach. Thank you Ari, for helping us spread the word about Angel Flight West to those in need and those who can help.



Our Wing Leaders and their teams. We are grateful to our Wings, who are on the ground and in the air with strong grassroots awareness and outreach efforts. These leaders and their teams help with pilot recruitment, assist with grant fulfillment, welcome new members to Angel Flight West and provide orientation so new volunteer pilots can start flying missions as soon as possible. Wings, we couldn’t fly without you. Thank you.

Alan, Fern, Ari and our Wing Leaders and teams are only a few of the dedicated and valuable volunteers at Angel Flight West. There are so many ways our volunteers help.

To all of our Los Angeles headquarters office staff volunteers, who answer our phones and provide the first link between passenger and pilot, thank you.

To our Mission Coordinators, who manage the logistics of each flight and partner patients and others in need with their pilots, thank you.

To our Disaster Response Volunteers, who put their daily lives on hold to help others in times of crisis, thank you.

To the Earth Angels, a brigade of volunteer drivers who transport patients in Oregon, Seattle and in the Los Angeles area airports to regional medical centers, thank you.

To our dedicated, hard-working board of directors, who guide the organization and give counsel year after year.

To our Special Events and Fundraising Volunteers, who work tirelessly to ensure that we have the necessary funds for all of our flight operations, thank you.

And to you, who is reading this page, thank you for your interest in Angel Flight West. We hope we can help you, or perhaps you’d like to volunteer  and help us, in the coming year.