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6 million miles and counting

Patient Airlift Services (PALS) offers free medical and compassion flights for patients and veterans using a completely volunteer pilot fleet. Since its inception in 2010, PALS has completed more than 28,000 flights for 3,200 families for a total of 6.5 million miles flown.

Photo courtesy of PALS. Photo courtesy of PALS. Photo courtesy of PALS SkyHope. Photo courtesy of PALS.

PALS (which is currently in the process of rebranding to PALS SkyHope) offers patients and veterans a less stressful travel option than driving or flying commercially. For those living in more rural communities, smaller general aviation airports are more conveniently located and offer more flexible travel options. Traveling GA also means less exposure for immunocompromised patients by avoiding crowded airports, airport security, and full commercial flights.

Currently PALS has a roster 600 pilots deep but, according to PALS Director of Development and Marketing Brook Leighton, only 200 pilots are actually flying in a given year. “Pilots are in the know, but we want patients and veterans to be aware as well,” Leighton explained. Word is getting out, though. In recent years, PALS has averaged about 2,500 flights per year.

A number of those flights were accomplished by volunteer pilot and PALS founder and president Joe Howley, who completed his 1,000th PALS flight in October. Howley and his Embraer Phenom 300 have transported 1,681 passengers a total of 329,000 miles.

Photo courtesy of PALS.

Other pilot milestones saw two PALS pilots both reaching their 300th flight. “A lot of our pilots have grown up with us in a sense,” Leighton continued. “These achievements are such a testament to their personal dedication to our cause.”

Pilot volunteer and New Hampshire pilot outreach liaison Ed Gormley began flying with PALS in 2019 and has flown 25 passengers on 12 missions. “I really enjoy the charitable flying I get to do with PALS,” Gormley said. “It’s a great way to use my love for flying to help those in need. The PALS team is terrific with their support for both patients and pilots.”

PALS and its network of pilots provide free medical flights as well as other air transportation services to individuals who are receiving medical treatment for acute or chronic conditions and cannot afford commercial or charter flights. Most flights travel no more than a few states away, or the equivalent of a six- to eight-hour drive.

PALS for Patriots, another facet of PALS, works with several veterans organizations to transport veterans and their families to medical treatments, retreats, service dog matching, and other opportunities that advance the healing process.

The organization has recently received $320,000 in grants from the Alexion Charitable Foundation, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation to further its work throughout the New York area and beyond.

Niki Britton

eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.

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