The public benefit presence organized by EAA's Fly4Life program this year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh showcases what for the people it serves is a critically important segment of general aviation -- some 63 organizations staffed by pilots who donate their time and aircraft to offer the benefit of flight to people who could not otherwise afford them. In most cases that means medical transport. These grass roots organizations have in the past sprouted locally and organically, which has sometimes led to locally efficient but nationally disconnected efforts. The organizations ,which include big names like Lifeline Pilots, Wings of Mercy, and the Air Care Alliance together contribute a rough estimate of about 15,000 charity (mostly medical transport) flights per year, according to Rol Morrow co-founder of Air Care Alliance and executive director of Wolf Aviation Fund. So, beyond collecting the groups, the Fly4Life program at AirVenture provides a focal point to help organize public benefit organizations in the collective goal of increasing mission efficiency. Transporting a needy passenger across the country is often an inter-organizational effort and logistics can always be improved.
All together, volunteer pilot operations -- including those that introduce young pilots to aviation through the young eagles program -- have since 1990 delivered the gift of flight to an estimated 1.6 million individuals and their families. But public benefit flying is just one arm of the Fly4Life program -- the other is mission flying. Distinguishing the two, one Lifeline pilot said simply, "their pilots get shot down, ours don't." We'll have more on the mission presence here at Oshkosh later in the week.