Local pilots volunteer skills, money to help patients get to major hospitals

All you need is a pilot's license, free time and a big heart, and then you can volunteer to be a Angel Flight pilot.

Northstate resident Charlie Finkel has all three things and has been flying planes for 50 years.

"I got my pilots license in February of 1968 when I was 17 years old," said Finkel. He said it's in his blood.

"My father was a pilot and I used to fly with him," he said. "I think most pilots will tell you, when it gets in your blood you become addicted to it."

He said he's had all sorts of aviation jobs over the years. The aviation "job" he volunteers for now, holds a little bit more meaning.

Finkel is part of "Angel Flight" a non-profit that connects pilots willing to volunteer, with patients in rural areas that need to get to major city hospitals.

14-year-old Kinzie Klein of Redding has Cystic Fibrosis. She has had it since she was an infant and there is no cure.

She has to do treatments to break up the mucus in her lungs multiple times a day. She also has to travel to a specific hospital for an appointment every three months.

She has attended these appointments to Palo Alto every three months for 14 years. It's a trip they used to take in the car.

"It took forever and you had to get up at five in the morning to try to beat traffic," Kinzie said.

Her mom, Jeannine Klein said Kinzie had to get up to do her treatment before they could even get in the car.

"I wasn't realizing what an emotional and physical toll it took on my daughter to be in the car that long," said Jeannine.

So, Jeannine signed Kinzie up for Angel Flight. Now, local pilots like Charlie fly Kinzie and her mom to Palo Alto every three months.

"I've sat in the co-pilots seat before and it's super fun," Kinzie said.

"I remember the first time I flew Kinzie, she's just a delightful young lady," Finkel said.

Jeanine said the flights make a hard day more fun and gives Kinzie a life experience.

"I can't say thank you enough to Angel Flight and to Charlie for loving us and all the patients and for caring enough to volunteer," said Jeannine.

"It's a win-win situation, you get to fly, which most pilots like doing, and you get to help other people at the same time," said Charlie.

Angel Flight is looking for more volunteer pilots in Northern California.

To be a pilot for Angel Flight you must have these requirements:

  • Valid and current private (or higher) certificate, with class/type ratings and endorsements required for aircraft
  • Instrument rating
  • Valid & current class III or higher medical certificate
  • 250 hours pilot in command (PIC) experience
  • 25 hours make and model in singles, 75 hours make and model in turbines and twins
  • 50 hours as PIC in last 12 months (waived with a flight review or completion of a Wings phase in last 3 months)
  • Liability insurance policy

Angel Flights do not fly for emergency situations.

You can find out more about volunteering or requesting a flight here.

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