May 18, 2020
Even as COVID-19 has dominated the nation’s healthcare infrastructure since March, other medical concerns have not disappeared, and business aviation has continued to support these efforts as well.
“With the drop-in passenger requests, as hospitals have temporarily postponed non-critical surgeries, we’ve shifted our focus to help more humanitarian organizations in whatever way we can,” said Elizabeth Hancy, director of Texas-based Angel Flight South Central. “We’ve been focused on getting the message out there as much as possible that we’re here and willing to help.”
In addition to transporting COVID-related personal protective equipment such as masks and face shields, Hancy said the group’s volunteer pilots have also donated their time and aircraft in recent weeks to fly doctors to rural areas and cancer patients for treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston.
Recently, the group also stepped in to provide critical transport of blood specimens from the Corpus Christi area. “We’ve been flying weekend missions on behalf of Gulf Coast Blood Center, and recently added a midweek flight as well,” Hancy said. “With the cancellation of commercial flights, their only other option was to drive these samples to the testing center in Houston, spending unnecessary time on the road.”
Wings of Hope is another humanitarian organization that has seen its usual operations curtailed by the coronavirus. The nonprofit has a presence in nine countries, with six U.S.-based aircraft owned and operated by the organization to fly as many as 300 missions annually, carrying patients to specialized treatment at hospitals across the country.
“Our hospital partners rescheduled our planned flights over the past nine weeks as they focused on COVID-19 and emergencies,” said Bret Heinrich, president and CEO of Wings of Hope. “That said, we’ve remained focused on what we know best, such as making ourselves available to the bone marrow registry ‘Be The Match’ should they require emergency transport services.”
While the group’s flight activity remains lower than normal, “we are beginning to open up this month, and we have a full schedule of flights for June,” Heinrich added. “I feel so blessed to be able to help people get where they need to be when they couldn’t get there otherwise, and we’re grateful to now ramp back up again to support that mission.