Angels in flight: Local pilots share the gift of flight
Wallace Moran, a flight instructor and former airline pilot, is one of several Lowcountry pilots who donate their time and skill in a special way – he volunteers as a pilot with Angel Flight, a non-profit organization of volunteer pilots across the country who fly medical patients who cannot afford transportation to various facilities around the country for treatment.
Like so many who are part of the organization, Moran sees it as a unique way to give back. When Moran moved to Summerville four years ago, he decided to buy an airplane. The plane would come in handy with his business and with family life – in fact, being able to take to the sky and visit grandchildren in Florida for the day was a compelling reason to make the purchase by itself, he said.
But he also notes how fortunate he is to be in a position to own an airplane. Being able to share his good fortune is important to him, he said.
“I’ve known about Angel Flights for a long time,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to use the airplane -- I feel blessed to have it and am glad to share it with people who aren’t so lucky.”
Jeffrey Elliott, a Goose Creek pilot who has participated in several Angel Flight missions, agrees.
“It’s a wonderful program, it serves a great purpose, and it helps a lot of people,” he said.
The Angel Flight organization screens potential passengers and if they meet the organization’s criteria, then they are placed on a schedule. Pilots in the network then check the schedules and sign up for missions to fly. Pilots may fly entire trips but generally handle individual legs of each flight. In some cases, a pilot may be able to combine the Angel Flight mission with a flight he was planning anyway, such as a business trip.
Most of Moran’s flights have involved taking patients to and from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., for treatments, he said.
“The people come from all over, really,” he said.
All pilots use their own planes and pay their own expenses, Moran said. The passengers are people who are able to travel without restrictions and can get in and out of private aircraft. The planes are not equipped with medical equipment.
“It’s a small plane, and space can be a little tight,” Moran said of his plane. “Therefore, I have to make sure the passengers meet weight limits and can handle relatively tight quarters.”
The flights themselves are not inherently risky; pilots are not flying emergency missions, nor are they be expected to risk mechanical problems or adverse weather conditions.
“A pilot has the ability to cancel or delay a flight, if necessary,” Moran said. “No one is going to be expected to fly into dangerous weather, for example.”
Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who need the service, and being able to provide that service is what matters, Moran said.
“Each flight is unique in that I get to meet and help people who genuinely need help and are appreciative of what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s a good situation.”