It was a high school flight science teacher who sparked Marcie Smith’s interest in aviation. The class learned to read charts, plan cross-country flights, and test airplane wings in the school’s wind tunnel. As part of a unique curriculum, their educator even took students flying in a Cessna 172.
The experience stuck with her, and Marcie eventually earned her Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University. In her first career role as a flight operations engineer for NASA’s Pioneer program, Marcie had a view of Palo Alto Airport’s runway directly outside her office window, and as she says, “It seemed too easy not to sign up for flight lessons.”
Marcie earned her pilot’s license in 1988. The following year, she and her NASA colleague Nancy Ames signed up for Angel Flight West, flying their first mission together in March of 1991. Since that first donated flight, Marcie has flown 125 missions. “It’s a great way to mix your passion for being a pilot with helping people who need this service,” she says.
Some of her earliest trips were part of AFW’s summer specialty camp program. Marcie signed up to fly campers to and from Fresno, Calif. to attend Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation’s Champ Camp. “Those missions for burn survivors really hit home for me,” says Marcie. “I’m really glad Angel Flight West got involved with those programs.” Decades later, AFW continues to fly children to these summer sanctuaries for a week of healing and friendship.
Still reflecting on past missions, Marcie also recalls her flights with Lacey, a young girl who had a heart transplant at 18 months old and needed to fly to Stanford Children’s Health – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for post-transplant medical care. “Lacey’s heart transplant was so momentous to me,” says Marcie. “She stands out in my mind.”
Those flights stand out in Lacey’s mind, too. Today, Lacey is a Program Manager with Donate Life California, helping to spread the word about the importance of organ donation. While she was too young to remember names, Lacey says she remembers the faces of all the pilots who flew her and her family from their small town of Placerville, Calif. “We had to go back and forth to Stanford Health a lot,” she says. “That was another financial burden for my family. I’m so grateful there were people to help us.”
Today, Marcie lives in Sunnyvale, Calif. and flies a Cessna 182. She’s also a part of The Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots, and she tells her fellow female pilots about AFW any chance she gets. “It’s a great group of people from top to bottom,” says Marcie, “and you meet some pretty amazing passengers.”
As AFW prepares to fly its 100,000th mission this fall, we’re honored to recognize Marcie for her 30+ year commitment to charitable aviation. Thousands of lives have been changed, and will continue to be changed, through donated flights from Marcie and our other volunteers.