VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - There’s a group of pilots that volunteer their time, resources and even planes to fly people without the financial means to receive distant medical care for free.
These pilots don’t consider themselves heroes.
But the more you learn about the mission of Angel Flight, meet the people behind it and those forever grateful for it, it's hard to consider them as anything else.
At Signature Flight Support, many families often wait for the sign that help, in the form of an Angel Flight, is getting near. And there's only one form of payment Capt. John Billings says he ever needs.
"I love it," said the 94-year-old World War II Veteran. "We get tremendous pay at the end of the trip. We get big smiles always, and sometimes big hugs. I'm proud that we're able to be a niche in their life and transport them. Some would not be able to go without us, which makes us feel very good. I like to be in the air anyway, and if I can be in the air and helping somebody else that's a double shot."
He's been flying non-stop for 75 years.
"Some missions were bombing missions, mass bombing, sometimes you'd look left and right nothing in the sky but B-24's."
Over time, the mission has changed from covert operations to commercial aircraft -- and since 2005 he's made over 400 Angel flights.
Nevin Showman has been by his side for more than half those trips. "You take for granted your health and you get to meet these people who are dealing with all kinds of things but yet they have these big smiles," Showman said.
Like little Daniel Turner, diagnosed in March of 2017 with a lymphatic malformation behind his left eye. His mother wasn't working in order to care for him. Funds were limited but she says they were unexpectedly blessed with their first flight ever in life, a truly life-changing experience.
"The lady said the pilot will come and take you and your son to the hospital for free," said Mochea Turner. "I couldn't afford that and it was really urgent my son lost sight and when we went to Ohio they fixed it. John and Nevin are the best. They've been flying forever so they calmed me down."
That's what it's all about.
Angel Flights services 10 states with 500 volunteer pilots from all walks of life, some active duty military, some retired veterans and many civilians who just want to make a difference doing what they love. Last year, 44 percent of the patients they transported were cancer patients, 41 percent were veterans and 11 percent were children. The cost of the flights paid by the pilots themselves.
"This is real life-changing, life-serving, life-saving missions that we're doing," said Robb Alpaugh, Executive Dir Angel Flights in the MidAtlantic region. "Even in the most modest of small airplanes, each trip is probably $1,000."
But the service they're providing in the sky is priceless and most of all from the heart. They want to get the word out so more people can take advantage of this local organization.
If you have a financial and medical need, you want to volunteer or donate to Angel Flights MidAtlantic follow this link to fill out their application for help and maybe you'll be the next person on one of their flights.