This week’s Angel Flight was a wonderful experience.
After much pre-flight planning and preparation I departed early in the morning for the airport with the stuffed monkey I picked up for my 14-month-old VIP. My hope was that it would help comfort him during the flight and that he might even nap.
After a final pre-flight check and confirmation of the weather, 711DA jumped into the air with excitement. By the time I reached the NYC area, the undercast cloud deck had dissipated and made the ILS approach to Teterboro a formality.
Angel Flights are like flying the President of the United States (“POTUS”) in one way: As you probably know, any airplane that carries POTUS gets the callsign “Air Force One.” Similarly, airplanes that carry Angel Flight patients get the special callsign “Angel Flight” added to their tail numbers. That day I was flying N711DA, which became”Angel Flight One Delta Alpha” due to my VIPs.
Years ago, when I upgraded my pilot credentials from “private pilot” to “commercial pilot with instrument rating,” I spent countless hours learning how to fly more smoothly and precisely, to maximize passenger comfort. I can still hear my instructor’s voice, saying “that’s too steep of a bank — your (imaginary) passengers are all throwing up,” and “you have to level off more smoothly — your flight attendants want to walk on the floor, not stick to the ceiling.”
One nice thing about flying on hot days is that the outside air temperature generally drops by five degrees or so for every thousand feet you climb. If you climb high enough you get free air conditioning. At 8,000 feet the outside air was in the 40’s and felt wonderfully refreshing as it wooshed through the air vents. Unlike jets, my plane does not fly high enough to need pressurization. In fact, if we fly slow enough, you can legally open the window–although I don’t allow it when I fly with passengers.
When we landed at Latrobe, I welcomed my passengers on behalf of their Washington-based flight crew and taxied us to the general aviation terminal. I was pleased to see that the next Angel Flight pilot was waiting to take our VIPs on to Cincinnati.
After buying more fuel and downing an ice cold water and some cookies , I taxied back to the active runway and watched “Angel Flight Eight Nine Sierra Papa” climb slowly into the sky to complete the second half of the mission.
After a quick flight home with a strong tailwind, I soon found myself back in rush hour traffic on the ground. I was thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of what will hopefully be a story with a happy ending, and wishing that I had a runway in my back yard.