Angel Flight aims high for a cause
It’s been five years since Bo Bowman first volunteered as a pilot for Angel Flight. Today he is the director of the South Carolina Branch that he opened in 2009.
Bowman was in Summerville Monday morning to speak to the Summerville Oakbrook Rotary Club at Wescott Plantation.
“Angel Flight is headquartered in Atlanta and provides free air transportation for people who need to travel distances for much-needed medical treatment,” Bowman said.
There are 20 organizations – not all named Angel Flight – with the same mission, according to Bowman. They all operate under an umbrella organization Air Care Alliance.
The group holds a conference annually to share information about how they operate, their common needs, problems and success and to discuss pilot requirements. Air Care Alliance was formed to bring unity to the various organizations serving the same mission.
“The alliance is important; we learn from each other.,” Bowman said.
The Atlanta Angel Flight of which South Carolina is a part, is the second oldest in the country – there’s one California that is two weeks older.”
Bowman, a mechanical engineer by education (he attended the University of Maryland for his degree in Mechanical Engineering and the University of Connecticut for his Masters.
He and his wife had often vacationed in Hilton Head and had often thought South Carolina would be the right place to retire. A friend recommended Greenwood.
“We went there and I liked it. And of course I always check out the airport. We fell in love with it and moved there 12 years ago,” Bowman said.
Bowman’s love of flying began when he was eight years old and is still his passion.
“I am a private pilot and own a plane,” he said.
He was hooked on Angel Flight as soon as he flew the first mission.
“I was so impressed with the organization, I began speaking to groups about Angel Flight, and raising money,
Now as the director of the South Carolina Branch, which the Atlanta-based organization asked him to open in 2008, he speaks to groups statewide and applies for grants from foundations.
“The only part of the actual job that requires flying is when I have to travel to a foundation if they want an interview before they give us a grant. But what I love to do best is to fly my own angel flight missions,” Bowman said.
Pilots with Angel Flight must have a minimum of 250 hours, but the most important is that they have an instrument rating.
“We always fly on an instrument plan. And that alone requires at least 250 hours in most cases,” Bowman said. “You must have all your certificates current – and you can’t let your medical lapse.”
You don’t have to have your own plane.
“You have to provide a plane in one way or the other. You can be in a club and use that plane, or rent a plane or own your own,” Bowman said.
The pilot is responsible for the expense of flying, but the expenses associated with the missions are tax deductible.
“I love to fly. And flying these missions gives me a good reason to fly.”
Angel Flight Statistics
• Missions Coordinated in 2011 – 2,448
Patient home state – 44
Average patient flown – 2.75
Patient age range – newborn to 100 years
Patient conditions –
Cancer – 26 percent
Burn – 14 percent
Transplant – 8 percent
Missions by state:
Alabama – 7 percent
Georgia – 41 percent
Mississippi – 5 percent
North Carolina – 6 percent
South Carolina – 15 percent
Tennessee – 6 percent
Other – 20 percent
362 S.C. patient missions coordinated
Patients from 29 S.C. counties
20-plus afflictions involved
S.C. contributions totaled $65,000
(Has grown from zero in 2008, to $21,000 in 2009; $31,000 in 2010; $50,000 in 2011.)