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Boardroom 1 Corporate Angel Network Aug 14 Sole Image
Unleashing an extra value by helping others.
Companies offering an empty seat on their business aircraft to cancer patients in need of specialized treatment and care reflect the best of Business Aviation, observes Jack Olcott. Have you considered doing so?
Imagine the diagnosis is ‘the big C’. This year approximately 1.67 million US citizens will learn that they have cancer, the country’s second leading cause of death. The likelihood that a US male will be diagnosed with some form of cancer within his lifetime is slightly less than 50 percent; for US women the odds are about 35 percent. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that today the five-year survival rate for all cancers detected between 2003 and 2009 is 68 percent, up noticeably from the 49 percent survival rate that was characteristic of the mid-1970s. On January 1, 2012 approximately 13.7 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive, either cured or undergoing treatment. No longer is the C-word synonymous with death. While early detection is one reason for that advance, possibly the most profound influence stems from the specialized treatments that are now available at renown hospitals in several locations throughout our country.
Transportation is Critical
Access to specialized treatment, which can be found only in a limited number of cities, is difficult for many cancer patients. While finances play a role, often the more critical factor is the depressed state of the victim’s immune system due to the disease and the debilitating intervention employed to combat the cancer.
Thus using Scheduled Airlines with nearly every seat filled and making one’s way through today’s crowded terminals place the cancer patient in a challenging environment that often precludes travel by public means. Furthermore, non-stop flights between the patient’s home and the specialized hospitals often do not exist.
In 1981, Pat Blum, a pilot and cancer survivor, and the late Jay Weinberg, another cancer survivor, developed a novel idea—use the empty seats on corporate aircraft conducting normal business trips to provide transportation for people needing to reach hospitals specializing in cancer therapy, and call that system the Corporate Angel Network (CAN). Both Pat and Jay were from the area surrounding Westchester Country Airport (KHPN), one of the nation’s leading centers for Business Aviation.
As founders of CAN, they approached Dr. Leonard Green, President of the SafeFlight Instrument Corporation (also located at KHPN) and inventor of the stall warning indicator as well as other safety devices for aircraft. Impressed with the concept, Dr. Greene immediately became a significant benefactor for the program and offered his company’s King Air to launch CAN’s first flight. He personally piloted several of CAN’s early trips and flew the 10,000th CAN traveller in April 1998.
With support from the local Business Aviation community and the Country of Westchester, CAN developed a home at KHPN. Today six full-time CAN employees located at the airport are supported by a cadre of 20 to 25 volunteers who coordinate the needs of cancer patients with the schedules of flight departments that have agreed to make their empty seats available on business flights. Half of CAN’s volunteers have been active for 10 or more years.
Finding a fit between the needs of cancer patients and the normal travel schedules of participating flight departments is indeed challenging. A person requesting transportation contacts CAN’s office and completes a questionnaire that captures basic data such as the traveler’s type of cancer, age, gender, dates when travel is needed, and whether he or she will be traveling alone or with a companion. Prospective travelers must be ambulatory and obtain a doctor’s approval for the trip.
CAN volunteers digest those data and distribute travel requests using a variety of systems ranging from simple email communications to participating companies to sophisticated links directly into the computerized scheduling systems of CAN transport providers. In 2013, CAN received over 6,000 travel requests and was able to satisfy 2,600—a fulfilment rate of about 43 percent. Since its founding 33 years ago, CAN has flown approximately 45,000 trips for children and adults with cancer.
Your Help is Needed
Because Business Aviation is experiencing increasing internal demand and available seats are occupied by company personnel, CAN fulfilment is down from the 50 percent rate that existed a few years ago. To satisfy the requests of cancer patients, the organization needs to expand its supply of participating flight departments. All that is required to become a participating flight department is communicating with Dick Koenig, Executive Director of CAN (firstname.lastname@example.org or 914 328 1313).
Formerly Vice President and Publisher of FLYING magazine, and a 21-year Army and Air Guard veteran with over 7,000 hours as pilot-in-command, Dick knows Business Aviation. No mention of flights or participation is made without the express consent of participating companies.
We urge Directors of companies using business aircraft, whether owned, leased or chartered, to support the Corporate Angel Network; an effective way to amplify the benefits that companies and society gain from Business Aviation.