If AOPA member Carol Froehlig wrote a book, it would probably be called Joy of Flying. She recently competed with 37 other pilots from around the world (including two from AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation) in the all-female Air Race Classic, placing twenty-sixth along with fellow pilot Laura Lattanzio. But she's learned there's another side to flying—volunteer missions with Angel Flight America, which recently merged with AirLifeLine, which brings fun, fulfillment, and the satisfaction of helping others.
The combined charitable organizations, now operating as Angel Flight America, provide free medical transportation using general aviation aircraft and volunteer pilots. The combined operation accounts for 90 percent of all non-emergency medical and compassion flights in the United States.
"I just feel that this is my way of giving back to others for the joy that I feel in flying," explains Froehlig. "After I retired in 2001, I started looking around for things to do that were flying related, and I knew that Angel Flight was something I wanted to get involved in." She now donates her time and available seats in her Cessna 172 to Angel Flight. Based near Islip Macarthur Airport on Long Island, she has flown patients and families on missions of mercy along the East Coast.
"One of the last people I flew from Presque Isle, Maine, to Portland was a woman in her early forties who just had breast cancer surgery and was only given three years to live," said Froehlig. "She was so thrilled to be able to sit up in the right front seat and have the headset on and be able to see the whole vista of where we were flying. It just did my heart such good to be able to share that flight with her."
Through her Angel Flight missions, this GA pilot earns more than medals. "Sometimes the people are really, really sick and you don't get much conversation from them, but you just know in your heart that you're doing something that's so beneficial for them and that if you weren't doing it, they would be in much more dire straights," Froehlig explained.
Beyond the joy of doing something for others, Angel Flight trips also offer Froehlig another source of satisfaction. "Sometimes I'll combine a mission with things that work out for me, and that makes it really terrific," Froehlig says, noting that she'll pick a flight to somewhere she hasn't been and explore the area. At the same time every mission gives her a chance to hone her pilot skills.
For a supposedly retired person, the fifty-something pilot is active in several aspects of general aviation. In addition to her Angel Flight work, she volunteers at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and teaches ground school. "I've come to flying at an older age. I just feel that it's been such a gift to me at this point in my life and I feel so grateful that I was able to find something that was so totally involving."
Froehlig joined AOPA as a student pilot and has been an enthusiastic supporter ever since. "I feel very strongly about supporting AOPA, and I also support the Air Safety Foundation through donations to the safety fund," she said. She also enjoys member benefits such as Pilot magazine, insurance through the AOPA Insurance Agency, the Legal Services Plan, and the AOPA credit card's FBO Rebate Program. "I use it to the maximum so I get the total amount in rebates," she said with satisfaction.