About ten years ago, as he set off for yet another work conference in Northern California, Jeff Moorhouse decided to sidestep commercial air travel and instead fly with a fellow financial advisor — a retired naval aviator who had his own Cessna 182.
For Jeff, that experience proved to be life-changing. “I was hooked,” he said. “A few weeks later, I was taking my first flight lesson.”
Now, Jeff isn’t just flying himself to and from conferences — as a Southern California Wing Leader for Angel Flight West (AFW), he’s literally lifting people out of life-threatening circumstances and recruiting fellow pilots to do the same.
“After the ’08-’09 recession,” he said, “I didn’t have as many business trips as I’d had before. I was looking for a purpose to fly… and it was evident to me AFW is the go-to organization to help with natural disasters.”
During the massive Thomas Fire that tore through more than 280,000 acres of Southern California and shut down highways in 2017, Jeff put his considerable recruitment skills to work. By linking AFW with other non-profit support, he helped orchestrate an airlift operation to safely transport Californians between Ventura and Santa Barbara County.
“Anyone who lived south of Carpinteria wouldn’t have been able to get to Santa Barbara without an eight-hour trek, one-way,” Jeff said. “We made an impact on people needing medical treatment, and on many people who needed specialized treatment from Northern California all the way down to San Diego. It’s rewarding to know you’ve become part of someone’s medical team.”
And when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2020, Jeff was again inspired by AFW’s commitment to action — this time on an even larger scale.
“The amount of personal protective equipment AFW was flying throughout the 12 Western states was impressive,” Jeff said. “It was heartwarming to see how many pilots took part in that relief effort, getting emergency supplies to indigenous communities.”
Today, having formed a friendship with the Executive Director of the National Search Dog Foundation (SDF), Jeff’s commitment to search-and-rescue efforts incorporates safe transportation of search dogs for intensive training. Ever the organizer, he’s proud to encourage other volunteer pilots to join him in those missions. Read more about that partnership here.
“The reward of this, over the next few years,” Jeff said, “is we’ll start to see the dogs we’ve flown in for training. We’ll see them out in events, searching disaster zones.”
Jeff has flown 43 missions since 2016, flying individuals to their far-off care, providing support during natural disasters, and helping canines make it to their new homes with SDF.