In July 2020, Joe Michallyszyn took Julie Kiricoples, a friend from his church, for her first flight in a small airplane. They went aloft in the 1969 Cessna 150K that Michallyszyn, an 83-year-old retired police captain in Salem, Massachusetts, purchased a few years after he soloed in 1973, and in which he has flown thousands of hours over nearly five decades.
“She loved the flight,” Michallyszyn said of Kiricoples, who is now his life partner. “We flew around for an hour and a half. She loves flying.” Michallyszyn also had a confession: “I let the wheel go and looked at her, and she nearly had a heart attack,” he laughed.
The flight with Kiricoples was perfect. “Perfect takeoff, perfect flight, perfect landing,” Michallyszyn said. “That was my last flight. The most perfect flight I ever had. What a way to finish.”
An acolyte and eucharistic minister in the Catholic church, he said he felt called to retire his wings. The proud member of the United Flying Octogenarians said he came full circle at the Beverly airport. “When I started there, I was the youngest pilot—and when I left there, I was the oldest pilot,” Michallyszyn said. “After the flight I felt like a million dollars because it was a perfect flight. But I felt like crying because I was giving it up.”
Back on the ground, he was looking for a buyer for his trusty Cessna when he saw an ad for MatchingDonors.com in his local newspaper seeking donations of cars, boats, real estate—and airplanes. Founded in 2004, MatchingDonors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps patients needing transplant surgery to find a live organ donor online; also, because the kidney donor travels to the recipient, it provides grants to the donor covering food, lodging, and transportation to and from testing and surgery—as well as lost wages, if necessary (donors cannot benefit financially from organ donation).
Twenty-two people die every day in the United States waiting for a kidney transplant, the organization said, with most waiting seven to nine years on the government’s deceased organ donor list. Many patients can find a transplant through MatchingDonors.com within six months, or less, “by finding altruistic living organ donors for people needing kidney transplants.”
Recalling a member of his church who had needed a kidney transplant to save his life, Michallyszyn decided that donating his airplane would do more good than selling it. After donating the airplane to MatchingDonors.com, he helped the nonprofit sell it by personally showing the Cessna to potential buyers.
“We believe that if more people were better educated on the ability to be a live organ donor, and we add in the personal communication between potential organ donors and patients needing an organ, the number of donors will increase—and so will the probability of a patient receiving their much-needed organ,” said Paul Dooley, MatchingDonors.com CEO. “We already have over 15,000 potential donors on our site waiting to find patients needing organs.” Today MatchingDonors.com is the largest living donor organization in the United States, he added.
The organization has long had a Cars for Kidneys program. “We have just really started Planes for Kidneys,” Dooley said. “Joe’s was actually the first plane that was ever donated. The more the word gets out there, the more people will donate. 100 percent of their donation is tax deductible. We’ll take planes in any shape, too.”
Dooley said the organization can give the prospective aircraft donor a pretty accurate estimate of what the donation will bring. “Their [tax] write-off will be the amount that we sell it for,” he explained. “In Joe’s situation we got top dollar,” with 72 offers received in one week. Since Michallyszyn’s donation, other aircraft have followed.
To make a donation, call 800-385-0422 ext. 7 or visit the website.