Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Delivered Safely

Last week we shared what our Senior VP of Corporate Development/General Counsel does in his spare time, and how he prepared for his latest Angel Flight. This week, Bart tells us how it went.

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.

A welcome-aboard gift for my littlest passenger

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.

ILS Chart for TEB

ILS Chart for TEB

After landing at Teterboro and taxiing to the general aviation terminal I went inside to buy fuel and meet my littlest passenger and his parents. We talked at length about the flight and then I went out to do the final preparations in the near 90-degree heat.
Once I refueled and I had our IFR clearance to Latrobe (LBE) I called for the courtesy shuttle to bring the little guy and his mom to the plane.
Preparing to depart from Teterboro, NJMommy's lap is a great place to beFinal text before engine start

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.”

All that work paid off nicely as we accelerated smoothly and climbed slowly, to minimize any possible ear discomfort.  If you weren’t looking out the window at the NYC skyline, you might not have even known we left the ground!  Within ten minutes the little guy was fast asleep and he stayed that way for two hours as we flew smoothly through New Jersey and out to Western Pennsylvania towards Ohio.
July 2009 129
Flying along at 5,000 feet in smooth air

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.

It was 90 degrees on the ground but in the low 40's at our cruising altitude.  The cool air felt great coming through the vents.

It was 90 degrees on the ground but in the low 40's at our cruising altitude. The cool air felt great coming through the vents.

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.

Welcome to Latrobe, PA!

Welcome to Latrobe, PA!

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.

Our radar track from TEB to LBE

4 Responses to Bone Marrow Transplant Patient Delivered Safely

  1. Kenneth Ford July 31, 2009 at 5:15 PM #

    As a guy who flew small planes for 50 years (occasionally doing good turns for others) and as an online tutor for, I loved reading Bart Epstein’s two post on his recent Angel Flight mission. Good writing about a very worthy mission.


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