A league of volunteer pilots is serving Louisiana in a remarkable way. The organization Pilots for Patients, established in 2008 and based in Monroe, is flying patients in need of treatment and diagnosis to specialized facilities — at no cost.
The non-profit organization is working on its 10th year of successful missions in which they have completed more than 4,000 flights.There are currently 140 volunteer pilots on the rolls for the organization, more than 80 of whom flew a mission in 2017. Each mission is completely covered by the pilot and they receive no compensation — yes, even down to the fuel.
The flights are organized through a database on the Pilots for Patients website, where pilots can pick certain missions that fit their schedule, as well as a form for patients in need of assistance to fill out.
Senior Reliability Engineer and Volunteer Pilot - Mark Blair
Rubicon Senior Reliability Engineer, Mark Blair, is a Pilot for Patients volunteer and has been flying since age 18. He found out about Pilots for Patients from his wife who found a brochure for the organization in a local airport.
"To me, it's a form of Christian ministry," Blair says. "To help your neighbor — similar to the good Samaritan — helping those who are medically needy gives me a good reason to fly and help someone at the same time.”
Pilots for Patients is currently looking to recruit volunteer pilots to compensate for the growing number of missions. The organization hopes to expand its outreach to more areas of Louisiana that may not be familiar with who they are.
All you need to qualify to become a volunteer pilot is 250 hours of flying experience and to own an aircraft — or have the accessibility to rent one.
For more information about becoming a volunteer, please visit www.pilotsforpatients.org.
Pilot Mark Blair (left) with Patient Avery Benjamin (infant) and parents Christopher and Abbey Benjamin. (Photo: Mark Blair)