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After the Checkride: Veterans Airlift CommandAfter the Checkride: Veterans Airlift Command

Serving those who served us

One of the most personal, immediate, and tangible ways that general aviation pilots and aircraft owners demonstrate their support for members of the military who have borne the hardships of war is volunteering with the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC).
After the checkride

The charitable group provides free transportation via GA to post-9/11 veterans wounded in combat. Many of the trips are for medical care, but they can include other “compassionate purposes,” too.

The VAC was formed in 2006 by Walt Fricke, a Vietnam-era helicopter pilot who was wounded in battle and remembers the loneliness of being hospitalized in the United States far from family and friends. The Minnesota native formed the VAC to prevent the same burden from falling on another generation of warriors and their loved ones.

“I spent six months in hospitals and a year recuperating,” Fricke wrote of his recovery. “It took my parents and girlfriend—now my wife, Julie—more than a month after I arrived back in the states to arrange to come see me. I was wasting away emotionally, and I really began to heal when they arrived.”

VAC pilots must have an instrument rating, a current FAA medical, and ratings appropriate to the aircraft they fly. VAC pilots also must have a clean record with no certificate suspensions, revocations, or FAA enforcement actions. The organization recommends flying with two pilots “when practical,” but it’s possible to perform VAC missions as a single pilot if aircraft payload or range limitations dictate.

Most VAC flights are more than 250 miles in length, so high-performance single-engine and multiengine aircraft are preferred. VAC volunteers pay all the costs associated with each flight. VAC volunteers receive fuel and other discounts from Signature Flight Support and some other fixed-base operators, and flight expenses can be tax deductible as charitable contributions.

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Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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