The Friday BizAv Blog - Charitable Business Aviation

Giving back in the season of giving

Dave Higdon  |  04th December 2015
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Dave Higdon
Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon is a highly respected, NBAA Gold Wing award-winning aviation journalist who has covered all...

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Burning heart. Love is in the air.


Given the season, Dave Higdon reviews a few of the ways those in General and Business Aviation use their wings for acts of selfless giving...

Among the many stand-outs of each year's National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention, is the annual soirée to benefit the Corporate Angel Network (CAN). The evening gala stands out as arguably the most visible public benefit activity among what's overwhelmingly a positive, albeit nearly invisible litany of benefits provided by people in Business and General Aviation.

This year's soirée brought to the forefront what private aviation operators provide year-round: free and essential solutions to people in need of transportation between their homes and the location of critical medical treatment.

The tab raised by this year's soirée? More than $505,000. The funds go toward covering the costs of administering the programs CAN provides. A non-profit organization, CAN stands out for its singular mission.

The result of its activities is the improved chances for the patients’ survival, reduced emotional stress, lowered levels of physical discomfort – and, not to be overlooked, lessened financial burden for the effected families. In October CAN arranged its 49,000th cancer patient flight since its first one in 1981.

“The Business Aviation community has a long history of supporting humanitarian and charitable causes, and more than 500 companies are involved in the live-saving work of CAN,” notes NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Participation in this year’s soirée is just another way the industry gives back.”

Below the Radar

When talking to non-aviation people about General Aviation generally and Business Aviation specifically, among the most prevalent misconceptions are that business aircraft are a) only jets and b) that they fly solely for the benefit of the rich.

We know better and we preach the difference. But sometimes it takes the awareness of private aviation's public-benefit flying to crack through the wall of pre-conceived notions.

The reality is that charitable flying isn’t new in General Aviation – private aircraft operators started flying humanitarian missions decades ago.

Thousands of other people benefit from private aircraft flown by individual owners and pilots, as well as companies and corporations.

Angel Flight similarly stands out for its efforts to help people with medically driven travel needs, although its participants tend to fly smaller General Aviation aircraft and sometimes patients receive their travel via a relay of aircraft so that no one pilot faces a long expensive flight alone. Like CAN, Angel Flight pilots and aircraft owners donate the lift to the benefit of patients with a range of medical conditions. Angel Flight is also an accredited air ambulance service and can help patients travel despite special medical needs.

Other Contributors with Wings...

Elsewhere, fractional company PlaneSense hopes to fill a Pilatus PC-12 with donated food items to support the New Hampshire Food Bank. They did this last year, delivering an estimated 800 pounds of food to the NH Food Bank in Manchester. There are plenty of other events, groups and causes though, and some pilots and owners donate their time and aircraft to help relocate stranded pets while others have helped connect returning veterans with their families.

Countless local aviation groups, pilot clubs, business-oriented aero clubs, aircraft type clubs and airport associations choose their own targets for charitable activities, raising money, collecting toys and raising roofs. The diversity of private aviation's charitable, public benefit activities are about as diverse as aviation itself.

Gratitude is its own reward for the pilots and owners who make these giving events a labor of passion.

Peter Fleiss, CAN’s executive director notes, “Each year business aircraft operators fly more than 2,500 flights taking cancer patients to the best possible treatment for their specific type of cancer. We appreciate these contributions, along with all that NBAA and the Business Aviation community do to ensure that the soirée raises the funds necessary to continue our life-saving work.”

You'd get the same message in New Hampshire or from the tearful voice of an Angel Flight relative relieved that their loved one can get to the treatment they need. Because the people in private aviation care – and they put their wings where their hearts are.

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