June 27, 2012

Two U.S. charitable aviation organizations that use business aircraft to save lives and relieve human suffering were recognized this month, one in Florida and one in North Carolina.

Angel Flight Southeast received the “2012 Healthcare for Heroes” award from the Greater Miami (FL) Chamber of Commerce for its work in disaster response and emergency support in the Caribbean. The group is one of nine Angel Flight organizations that fly patients who are financially distressed or cannot travel by other means for treatment in a distant location, all without charge. It also flies abuse victims needing relocation, human organs for transplants and more.

The award was in the chamber’s Institution/Program category. It noted that the organization deploys more than 800 volunteer pilots who fly 1,500 missions annually, including more than 1,000 missions flown after Hurricanes Katrina, Ivan and Wilma. The chamber cited examples of Angel Flight Southeast’s recent volunteer flights, including a patient needing an emergency lung transplant; a two-year-old having multiple organ surgery; and a cancer patient who has repeatedly traveled from Key West to Miami for treatment.

The award said Angel Flight Southeast has “made an extraordinary impact in the South Florida health care community.”

Angel Flight organizations are listed on NBAA’s Humanitarian Groups website, which provides contact information for volunteer groups using business aircraft to help people in need.

The second charitable organization to be recognized recently was Bahamas Habitat, a North Carolina-based volunteer group that conducts humanitarian relief operations in the Caribbean. Bahamas Habitat has been nominated for a 2012 Classy Award. The national Classy Awards are sponsored by Stay Classy Inc., a service provider for non-profit groups. Its annual awards program, to be held this year on Sept. 22 in San Diego, CA is described as “the largest philanthropic awards show in the country.”

Bahamas Habitat was nominated in the disaster relief and international aid category. Classy Award regional finalists will be announced July 9, and national winners will be selected before the annual Classy Awards ceremonies.

Bahamas Habitat was cited by NBAA in early 2010 as one of the many businesses, organizations and individuals who responded to cries for help from Haitians left homeless or injured by the January 2010 earthquake. Bahamas Habitat volunteers flew more than 400 missions, logging 3,200 flight hours. The volunteers moved a quarter of a million pounds of vital supplies and evacuated hundreds of survivors in the days immediately following the disaster.

One of the organization’s current missions is distribution of clean drinking water and water filtration devices in Haiti, where unsanitary water sources have exacerbated a cholera epidemic. As many as six water purification systems and dozens of filters can be carried on a typical twin-engine business aircraft such as a Beech Baron. So far, 20 clean drinking water sites serving almost 144,000 Haitians have been set up.

Aircraft volunteered for missions like those flown by Angel Flight Southeast and Bahamas Habitat often belong to businesses that otherwise use the aircraft to save time, increase productivity and serve small communities far from major airline hubs. Stories of other missions carried out by volunteered aircraft may be seen on the No Plane No Gain website.