They’re called “Compassion Flights”, or “Angel Flights”. The FAA calls them “aeromedical services”. It’s a sector of general aviation that you may not think about everyday. But in an emergency, perhaps a car accident, it’s a sector that can save your life.
I live in a fairly remote area of coastal California where medical evacuation flights are common. Near my home is a large soccor field where critically injured and ill patients are loaded into helicopters and taken to nearby trauma centers and hospitals by highly trained teams of pilots, paramedic and flight nurses. Without this service many survivable automobile accidents might prove fatal because of delays in treatment.
Cancer and burn patients often need highly specialized care, available only in major urban medical centers. In many parts of the world general aviation pilots work through charitable organizations to volunteer their time, money and aircraft to fly patients and their families between their homes and remote medical care facilities.
One well known organization “Doctors without Borders” routinely fly medical personel to small towns and communities where they provide much needed medical exams, innoculations and training to local doctors and nurses. Currently, Doctors without Borders is supporting health workers in northeastern Congo. This is an area where violent attacks on the local population are frequent and travel by car is too dangerous. So medical teams travel by plane to provide supplies and assistance to Congolese health workers. After attacks, medical teams fly in to the area to help in evacuating and treating the wounded.
Another rapidly developing area of medical air transport is that of moving transplant organs. Recently AirNet, a transport company known formerly mostly for shipping cancelled checks and other banking material made it’s first transplant kidney delivery from a donor in San Diego to a hospital in Miami.
These are just a few of the ways the general aviation community continues to make the world a better and safer place for all of us.