Out of a humble hangar at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri, Wings of Hope has been saving and changing lives through the power of aviation for 60 years.
Founded in 1963, the organization began as a capital campaign to send an airplane to missionaries flying around Kenya providing medical support and relief to communities in need. Today, Wings of Hope has grown into a global humanitarian network that served more than 40,000 people in 10 countries in 2022.
How does this Midwest aviation nonprofit impact so many worldwide?
Wings of Hope works with community partners to connect people with the resources they need to live healthy and dignified lives. The ultimate goal is helping communities build sustainable solutions to determine their own futures, long after Wings of Hope has moved on to its next mission.
Wings of Hope’s Global Humanitarian Network provides people access to health care using two primary delivery models: medevac and brigade services. Medevac flights respond to emergency calls for help from individuals in distress, flying into remote regions to provide emergency treatment onsite or transportation to the nearest hospital. Brigades, which are scheduled with the local community and health workers in advance, use aircraft to transport medical equipment and health care providers to indigenous communities and provide services based on local needs.
Wings of Hope made its first medical air transport flight in the U.S. in 2003. Since then, its Medical Relief & Air Transport (MAT) Program has flown thousands of individuals and their families to transformative health care at the country’s top hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, M.D. Anderson and Shriners Hospitals for Children. All flights are free, removing this hefty financial burden from the stresses of managing serious health conditions.
The MAT Program operates with three stretcher-capable piston twins: Two Piper Senecas and a Piper Navajo. The all-volunteer, two-pilot crews fly within an 800-mile radius of St. Louis.
Born with one leg shorter than the other, 16-year-old Micah has been flying with Wings of Hope from her home in Kansas to Shriners Children’s St. Louis since she was 5. After 16 surgeries and countless follow-up appointments, Micah is close to completing her treatment. She says her last flight with Wings of Hope will be bittersweet: “You guys have watched me grow up.”
In 2019, Wings of Hope established SOAR into STEM to engage students in pursuing STEM and aviation careers.
SOAR into STEM Education Coordinator Robert Powell believes, “the best way to get young people excited about STEM is to give them something real to work on.”
The four-week education program embraces that philosophy—offering hands-on experiences working on planes in the Wings of Hope hangar, using a flight simulator, flying drones and taking a discovery flight with a certificated flight instructor.
To learn more, stop by the Wings of Hope booth #2119 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023 or visit the website.