Following in his father’s footsteps, Tom McGrath started flying in college 50 years ago. And for more than 30 of those years, he’s been donating his talent and resources to give back.
Tom’s charitable aviation journey began as an AirLifeLine volunteer pilot before he officially became part of Angel Flight West’s (AFW) network of volunteers in 1991. “Getting involved gave me an opportunity to fly more and to use my airplane to do something valuable for others,” says Tom.
Reflecting on his time with AFW, Tom recalls the days of scheduling missions via phone calls and fax machines. “I quickly got to know the AFW team,” he says. “The technology we have today didn’t exist, and it was fun to be involved early on.” Gone are the days of faxing flight itineraries. Today, to keep up with increased flight requests, AFW’s Mission Operations team coordinates flights through AFW’s online volunteer portal.
Tom also notes that upgrades in technology have coincided with improvements in health care. He’s watched as advancements have given his passengers more years to their lives. “What the medical community has been able to achieve is impressive,” he says. “And we’ve been able to help in a small way.”
When speaking of the patients he’s flown, Tom mentions a small angel pin he was given by one of his repeat passengers, Sally, back in 1996. “I stuck the pin on my hat, and it’s been on all my missions since,” he says. “That angel moves from hat to hat. It meant a lot to me.”
Today, Tom lives in Campbell, Calif. and flies a TBM 850. He still looks for opportunities to use his high-performance jet to fly long-range angel flights. “We’re grateful for the years of service Tom has given to help others,” says AFW Associate Executive Director Cheri Cimmarrusti. “He’s been a tremendous asset to our organization.”
As AFW prepares to fly its 100,000th lifetime mission this fall, we’re honored to recognize Tom for his 30-plus-year commitment to charitable aviation. Thousands of lives have been changed, and will continue to be changed, through donated flights from Tom and our other volunteers.