“You name it, we’ve been there,” he said.
Whenever the volunteer pilots are flying patients, air traffic controllers often give the charitable flights special treatment. Richison said they often give them priority when the are flying in or out of the airport.
Patients will also receive special handling. Not only are they being flown by volunteer pilots for free, but they also have “ground angels” that will take care of them. The ground angels pick up the patient from the airport and take them to either their hotel or the medical center where they’re receiving treatment. They also take them back to the airport for their ride home, he said.
Arranging a flight can take some time for patients because of the paperwork involved. Patients must have a qualified doctor, nurse or social worker sign off on the paperwork. After that, it usually takes seven working days to process it and schedule a flight for a patient.
Richison said it is important to always have a back up plan as well in case the flight gets canceled. Flights can get canceled because of weather, because a pilot is sick, because of mechanical issues or because a patient gets too sick to fly, he said.
Often times if a flight does get canceled though, he said the pilot will try to find an alternate method to get the patient to the medical center.
“Some pilots will volunteer to buy patients commercial airline tickets,” Richison said.