“If someone needs help, I’m flying to help.”
Command Pilot Yosuke Tanaka lives by those words. As a plane and helicopter pilot, Yosuke has flown his share of missions to help those in need. Since moving to Hawaii seven years ago, Yosuke has helped with search and rescue missions to locate missing hikers and fishermen. It was this passion to help others that led Yosuke to also take on the role of Angel Flight West volunteer pilot after being introduced to our organization by a friend.
Since becoming an AFW volunteer pilot last July, Yosuke has made an incredible impact by completing 80 missions in a single year. Commenting on his love of flying, Yosuke says, “Flying an airplane is like riding a bicycle. I don’t have to think about whether to do it or not – I just go!” The answer is an easy ‘yes’ for Yosuke, who has built up thousands of hours as Pilot in Command. He jokingly says that saying ‘yes’ to flying is easier than saying ‘yes’ to taking a trip to his local grocery store.
It’s that passion that leads Yosuke to often accept Angel Flight West missions that might otherwise need the support of commercial airlines. Yosuke flew his first mission on July 13, 2021. Two days later, he completed his second mission, flying six-year-old Tekauri from Wailuku, HI, to Kapiolani Medical Center on Oahu, where he’s receiving treatment for brain cancer. The stress of travel only added to the worry of Tekauri’s family – both emotionally and financially – until Angel Flight West came along.
Forty-one shared flights later, Tekauri and Yosuke have become close friends. “I knew I needed to help this boy and family,” says Yosuke. “He likes airplanes. He gives me a high-fives. I’m so glad to be able to help them.” When they first met, Tekauri’s speech and mobility were limited as he recovered from brain surgery. Lately, Tekauri has been more active and verbal, a change that Yosuke is happy to see.
Tekauri and his family now consider Yosuke a part of their family, affectionately referring to him as “Uncle Pilot.” As they continue to need AFW’s to access Tekauri’s health care, Yosuke and our other volunteer pilots plan to be ready with their planes each flight of the way.
Mahalo, Yosuke. We thank you for your gift of flight.