Post-9/11 Pilots Get Public Benefit Award

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When the skies were empty of civilian aircraft over North America on Sept. 13, 2001, some volunteer pilots took to the air on a unique medical mission. Last week Lifeline Pilots was honored with the National Aeronautic Association's Public Benefit Flying Team award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Lifeline pilots, Lyle Clapper, Norbert Ptaszek, Ward and David Montgomery and Mark and Donna Turek, were granted special permission to fly live skin tissue and blood platelets from St. Paul, Minn., to medical centers in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Bethesda, Md. Lifeline Pilots normally flies financially distressed patients to distant medical care but the Sept. 13, 2001, flights "took our mission to a higher level," said Executive Director Keith Laken. Of course, the flights required high-level permission from the FAA, complete with discrete transponder codes. In Bethesda, armed guards met the plane to take the blood platelets to the military hospital, which was under security lockdown. Mark Turek, who made one of the flights with his wife, Donna, said cruising the empty skies in the tense days that followed the terrorist attacks was "... an interesting time. People needed family togetherness and our flight allowed us to have that and help others at the same time."