Making a Difference. One Flight at a Time.
Flying is in Steve Wells’ blood. From a very young age, he loved planes and hoped to fly one someday. His dream came true in 1972 when he graduated from Oklahoma State and bought his first airplane—a Fleet 16B Finch bi-plane.
He says, “It took about four years to rebuild.”
That bi-plane was the first in his collection of aircraft. He currently owns a Bonanza B36-Turbine, Piper Super Cub, and Russian Yak training plane. His involvement with Angel Flight Oklahoma, a volunteer organization of pilots arranging transportation for those in need of medical treatment, started at the Jones Riverside airport.
He says, “My hangar is catty-cornered to a man named Doug Vincent, the founder of Angel Flight Oklahoma. I asked him about Angel Flight one day and he took me on a flight with him. A few weeks later, I was an Angel Flight pilot.”
Since then, Wells has flown well over 100 benevolent flights for the charity and was recently named Angel Flight’s Pilot of the Year for the third year in a row. He flies patients, serves on the board as the organization’s Secretary/Treasurer, and donates building space for the Angel Flight offices.
Wells flies solely for enjoyment and Angel Flight missions. He encourages instrument-rated pilots with their own planes to get involved. The process of becoming a volunteer pilot is easier than you think.
He says, “Because I love flying so much, Angel Flight gives me a purpose to help someone else. It allows me to stay current as a pilot and go to places I’ve never been before.”
Angel Flight Oklahoma
Angel Flight Oklahoma serves patients in need of transportation to or from medical treatment. It is a 100% volunteer, 501(c) 3 non-profit charitable organization of pilots, volunteers, and friends. Angel Flight will arrange free air transportation for any legitimate, charitable, medically-related need.
Angel Flight was created by a group of pilots who believe in the benefit of volunteering. Angel Flight is financially supported by the pilots who fly the missions by donating the use of their airplanes and operating expenses.
Last year, 295 missions were completed with 19 volunteer pilots flying five or more missions per year. Estimated pilot out-of-pocket expenses were about 1.1 million dollars.
Angel Flight receives no financial aid from any government entity. Volunteer pilots serve patients traveling for surgery, chemotherapy, dialysis, and other treatments. A typical flight may carry patients requiring treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston or the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, TX.
Never a Fee
There is never a fee of any kind, either to the patient or the health care provider for an Angel Flight. Angel Flight primarily serves patients needing transportation to or from the Heartland region. As members of the Air Care Alliance, they can coordinate with other organizations to arrange transportation for patients on longer flights to other parts of the country.
The service is available to individuals and healthcare organizations. Physicians and social workers may make a referral on their patient’s behalf. Angel Flight will arrange transportation for those in a non-time critical, non-emergency situation due to their medical condition.
When No One Else Can Help
Receiving proper medical care is critical and traveling in a car or bus can be long and hard on patients. Many times there is no commercial airline flight available in some of the smaller or isolated towns. Angel Flight Oklahoma is able to fly into those remote areas or local airports using their network of volunteer pilots and planes.
Patients in need of an Angel Flight must meet several requirements. For instance, patients must be ambulatory and able to travel in a small, non-pressurized aircraft, without access to lavatory facilities for the duration of the flight. They also must have approval from their physician and a back-up plan in case of severe weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
Pilots who volunteer for Angel Flight Oklahoma enjoy the opportunity to share their skills and love of flying while providing an important service to those in need.
Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Don Aspenson is one of the Pilot Coordinators for Angel Flight Oklahoma. Aspenson became involved with the charity two years ago when a friend who was a Pilot Coordinator needed a hand.
It’s a balancing act to coordinate missions with patient schedules, pilots, different airports, and weather concerns. Some flights take a simple phone call to coordinate but it can turn into a full time job.
Aspenson says, “Some days it’s all day. But by the end of the day, I can usually find a pilot willing to donate their time and plane for an Angel Flight.”
These days, he strictly volunteers to coordinated Angel Flights. He spent an impressive career flying C-5 military transport aircraft, one of the largest airplanes ever made. He is respected and admired by other Angel Flight volunteer pilots as a “real pilot”.
“I always joke that my office was 36 feet in the air. You could fit eight Greyhound buses in the hull of that plane,” says Aspenson.
Due to an increase in missions, Angel Flight is currently in need of more pilots like Wells and Aspenson. Volunteer pilots fly one or more missions a year. There is never an obligation to volunteer or accept a mission. To learn more about becoming a volunteer pilot, please visit AngelFlight.com.
To arrange transportation for a friend, family member, or patient, please contact the Angel Flight office at 918.749.8992 or Angel@Angelflight.com for more information.