BLUE BELL, Pa. (CBS) — The military isn’t the only one using its aircrafts to support health care workers. A nonprofit outside of Philadelphia is flying desperately-needed medical supplies to rural hospitals.
The details are finalized.
“Tomorrow’s mission has 14 planes,” Angel Flight East pilot Adam Zucker said.
The gear is loaded.
“I think the pilots are itching to get out and fly,” Angel Flight East Outreach Director Jess Ames said.
On Thursday, rural hospitals from New York to Ohio are getting much-needed help. Ames says the help includes 3,600 pounds of hand sanitizer and 3,500 face shields.
The flights are taking off from Wings Field in Blue Bell, home to Angel Flight East.
“The mission of Angel Flight East is essentially to coordinate air travel for folks who need medical care far from home on private aircraft all free of charge,” Zucker said. “COVID-19 has changed all that.”
Zucker, the nonprofit’s former president and current pilot, says transporting patients is now not safe.
“You’re in a small confined space next to somebody who may have been exposed to somebody else and you certainly don’t want to transmit anything to them or them transmit to you,” Zucker said.
So the organization pivoted.
“We’ve kept flying, but the mission is a little different,” Zucker said.
They’ve paired with the Project Shields organization, a group of University of Pennsylvania alums who are making free face masks for health care workers and Kiki Vodka, a Montgomery County-based distillery, now pumping out cases of hand sanitizers.
Pilots with Angel Flight East are in charge of bringing this vital gear to hospitals that may not otherwise have access to it.
“A lot of the major hospitals get the supplies first come but the rural health care facilities really have challenges getting those supplies,” Ames said.
“The only way they can get it is a small aircraft flying into a local airport, so we jumped in and are filling that need now,” Zucker said.
Filling that need and counting the days until these planes are once again filled with patients.
“The pilots form a bond with the patients they fly,” Zucker said. “They become family to them. I know there are a lot of pilots out there and patients likewise who are really eager to reconnect.”
Everything on these missions is free for the health care facilities. It’s the pilots’ own plane, their own fuel and their own time. And the gear, of course, is donated as well.
With patient flights canceled indefinitely, the organization plans to continue to supply flights regularly.