Flight Log

Resources and Stories from Angel Flight West.

A Mission Moment by No. CA Command Pilot Dave Lombard

Worthy of the Trust

I have been flying Angels for about 14 years. I think over that time, I have pretty much seen it all. My first mission was a woman from northeastern California who was suffering from colon cancer. I also flew one of her neighbors who had breast cancer. They have both passed on. I live in the central California foothills, adjacent to the great San Joaquin Valley where we feed the world. There are a lot of kids with pressing needs here. I have flown numerous children with their parents from poor areas of the Valley to Palo Alto for treatment at Stanford. They came in all shapes and sizes, colors and languages. I have flown parents of a child who had a liver transplant at two months of age. I have flown folks who had maladies so weird that there was only one hospital in the west that had the expertise to treat them. I have flown war fighters who gave so much to our freedom, to and from treatment centers for their PTS issues. What an honor to be able to help them be “welcomed home.”

And the highlight of every summer–flying kids to camp! These are special missions because of the joy in the hearts, attitudes, and on the faces of these campers in anticipation of a week with kids just like them. No judgement, no snickering, no staring at burn scars, just good fun and fellowship. Yesterday, I picked up two sisters at Hanford (KHJO) for the ride to Camp Pacifica. They were deaf, as is their mother. There is a unique language barrier for me with deaf people because I am not skilled in American Sign Language.”

As I watched the mother shepherding her daughters to the plane, I was once again struck by the amount of trust placed in Angel Flight pilots by the parents of these kids. Imagine handing your kids to a total stranger, whose language you do not speak, watching them be stuffed into a flimsy tin can with wings, and continue watching as they hurtle skyward. I have two daughters, and the grilling endured by their potential suitors for a two-hour “date” was legendary. Imagine having to entrust your princesses to a total stranger with little or no conversation prior to the event other than when and where to meet, and that communication carried out only via text or email. Are we worthy of the trust? Are we feeling well? Are we taking good care of our own health? Did we get a good sleep the night before? Is our plane in good mechanical condition? Are we current? Or even better, do we fly often enough that we significantly exceed the FAA’s currency requirements? But most of all, are we taking seriously the responsibility placed in us by the passengers and their families? I am sure most or all of us will answer “yes,” but I think it is a good reminder to simply ponder the huge responsibility which we have undertaken. We literally have lives in our hands. Blue Skies and Tailwinds.

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