Angel Flights mobilizes for hurricane relief

Wednesday, September 14th 2005, 10:35 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma continues to play a role in helping out after Hurricane Katrina. Tulsa based "Angel Flight" was mobilized to help move relief workers around the Gulf Coast and they're continuing their usual effort transporting patients.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says Ed Sells is something of an air traffic controller. He's got a fleet of aircraft he's tracking, with more pilots and planes ready to go on short notice. "'All our guys take time off from work or vacation, they pay for flying out of their own pocket, we don't give them any reimbursement or anything."

Most times the pilots of Angel Flight Oklahoma fly cancer patients to specialized hospitals. They fly anyone who can't afford the trip and have been doing it for years. Now this same volunteer air force is lending a hand along the Gulf Coast - flying help in and flying some victims out.

Angel Flight has 3 main missions related to the hurricane. They fly emergency workers between Bay St Louis, Mississippi and Gulf Shores, Alabama. They fly reconstruction experts between Jackson, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. And they fly exhausted firefighters out of Baton Rouge to other cities to recuperate. "They're sleeping on the floor of a firefighter’s union hall, so we take them home. Give them a shower and a decent meal and then let them go back."

It's a different mission they've taken on and one that Sells is happy to coordinate from his computer. He says they've flown more than 30 missions, without charging a penny, and without any help from the government. “Oklahoma's Angel Flight based in Tulsa is unique because we are the only one that is all volunteer, has no paid staff, has no paid consultants and we have never ever had a fundraiser.

Angel Flight continues to take off with their regular medical patients and now they've added to their schedule because of the hurricane.

The work of Angel Flight Oklahoma, especially in coordinating long distance flights, is being honored by the National Aeronautic Association. A volunteer pilot from Oklahoma City, and the flight coordinator from Tulsa, are being honored for helping with flights that covered 37 states.