PALS Pilot Squawk

Business Jets Provide Valuable Service to People in Need

When I signed on with PALS in 2016, I knew I had an opportunity to serve in a unique way. As a Citation owner, I was one of very few PALS pilots with such a capable aircraft. The majority of pilots on the PALS roster fly small single-engine pistons, which is perfectly fine for most flight requests. A typical flight for those pilots ranges between 200-300 miles and carries one or two passengers—an easy assignment for the Cessna, Piper and Cirrus drivers.

But the need to access lifesaving care knows no limit. Quite often, PALS receives requests that go beyond the normal capabilities of those volunteer pilots and their aircraft. These are flights of longer distances, heavier payload, or other special needs. For most of the piston pilots, these requests are simply out. For the staff, it might mean finding multiple pilots to complete one flight, and coordinating details for multiple legs—no small feat. For the patient, it could mean a switch between aircraft or a higher probability the flight might cancel—not exactly ideal. In some cases, it may mean having to say ‘no’ to a flight request altogether.

But PALS is not an organization that likes to say ‘no’. They are continually assessing the need and looking for more opportunities to say ‘yes’ to people who require help. Part of that means looking to pilots with more capable aircraft to call on for those flights that push the boundaries.

I asked the Mission Coordinators to single out the most demanding missions for me and my 560, simply because I have the training and equipment, and can handle all the weather, range, and lift requirements that two, three, or even four legs in a small piston might not be able to take on.

What I learned is that there is no shortage of flights for planes like mine. Opportunities with PALS include medical missions, compassionate flights for veterans, and also disaster relief.

My first flight was a medical mission to transport an eight-year-old burn victim and her family from their home in New York to Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Cincinnati so the girl could undergo treatment there.

Most-recently, I had the opportunity to help two veterans and their families travel from North Carolina to the Travis Mills Foundation in Maine, an all-adaptive retreat for combat-wounded veterans and their families.

I have to tell you that transporting veterans, who have given so much of their lives and, in these cases, their bodies, to serve our country is such a fulfilling way to use my passion and love for flying.

Josh C. served with the US Army 3rd Infantry Division. He was hit by an IED and lost his left leg and part of his right. His sweet wife, Holly, and daughter, Aubrey, accompanied him to the retreat.

Aubrey H. served with the US Air Force with a unit providing security for our base at Bagram, Afghanistan. He was hit by a IED and lost his left leg. His lovely wife, Jasmine, and son, Theron, came with him up to Maine.

We all know every time we fly how capable, comfortable, and safe these airplanes are, and so being able to take these six people and all their gear from Concord, NC to Augusta, ME was a perfect mission. One that might not have been so easily accomplished otherwise.

As you might have seen in the press, PALS has also allocated flights to disaster relief. I personally flew 22 hours to Puerto Rico and Dominica hauling critical supplies to ATC in San Juan. (Yes, I had to take food and supplies to our FAA employees who were without main generator power and running the TRACON on emergency backup power and minimal food and water). PALS flew hundreds of missions in support of relief efforts for the three hurricanes that battered us last year, many of which simply could not have been accomplished in less capable aircraft.

There are a bunch of volunteer pilot organizations out there that are helping people, but for owners and pilots of business jets who want to work with an organization that values your time and contribution while helping others, PALS is a great way to do it.

PALS takes a more “institutional” approach to charity flying than a lot of other volunteer pilot organizations. They arrange ground transportation, provide mission coordination, and have an intuitive web interface enabling pilots to quickly and easily see what missions are available and who needs help. The PALS staff is

amazing and works very hard (and often very long hours) to make all the little details in the background happen while the pilot can get on with the flying part of the mission. It really is a fantastic organization.

PALS is always looking for qualified pilots, but if you are one of those lucky enough to own and operate a business jet, I especially implore you to contact PALS to see how you can help. Or contact our PALS Pilot Coordinators who can put you in touch with me – I would be happy to talk about my own experiences as a pilot as well as any organizational questions you might have.

Our airplanes can really do so much for people in need.

About the Author
Paul Weismann has an FAA ATP rating with approximately 2,500 hours and enjoys flying his Cessna Citation V for PALS, on business, and with his family. He also serves on the PALS Board of Directors.

When he’s not flying PALS missions, Paul is an investor based in Westport, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and three boys. While running a family office fund, Paul has invested across many disciplines and geographies, most recently in real estate. Paul is also interested in special situation credit, small cap private equity and the public equity market. Paul received his BA from Georgetown University and his MBA from Columbia University.

By : Paul Weismann /September 14, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices

Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices

By Robin Eissler

It’s been nearly one year since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, kicking off one of the worst hurricane seasons in history. While we hope to never repeat the record-breaking hurricane season of 2017, it is important that we take a moment to reflect on our lessons learned, as well as review some of our industry best practices in preparation for another potential response.

When disaster strikes, the aviation community is always eager to answer the call for help. There has been a steady increase in the number of pilots willing to donate disaster relief flights over the past decade — and for this we are immensely grateful.

We have learned during our relief efforts for multiple natural disasters (such as the Haitian Earthquake, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, etc.) that seamless communication and coordination with volunteers, government agencies and response teams is essential to effectively helping communities in need. As such, our PALS Sky Hope Disaster Relief Program is committed to focusing on a central command of information, thus effectively coordinating the influx of airplanes to the affected area, and allowing our volunteer pilots to maximize resources and quickly offer valuable assistance.

The flight coordination team at PALS has taken the lessons we’ve learned from multiple disaster response efforts, and created a PALS Sky Hope Disaster Relief: Flying Best Practices Guide. We encourage the aviation community to review these insights and tips, so together we can make an even greater difference in the lives of those in need.

PALS Sky Hope Disaster Relief: Flying Best Practices Guide:


• Coordinate all flights with a disaster relief flight charity: The single most important thing you can do when volunteering to fly for disaster relief is to make sure you are working with an experienced charity flight program. Our team at PALS Sky Hope works around the clock in the days following a disaster to efficiently and effectively utilize our donated resources.

We collaborate with government agencies and local officials to tailor the relief to fit specific needs of a region;

We ensure that we are providing the most up-to-date information to our pilots, taking extra care not to overload the fragile infrastructure in the disaster area;

We combine multiple needs on a single flight, thus maximizing the capability of an aircraft— one empty seat can be incredibly valuable!

We manage ‘dropping supplies’, so as to not complicate the relief effort and hinder ground operations. In addition, we remind pilots of proper weighing equipment and preparation of manifests.


• Prepare for uncertain ground circumstances: Fluid— it’s the best word to describe disasterareas in the immediate hours and days following the event. Disaster areas are constantly changing. The status of TFR’s, airports and fuel changes by the hour. Our flight coordination team stays in constant contact with our representatives on the ground, but sometimes information that is just a few hours’ old is outdated. You may arrive at an airport under military control; you may have to deal with security issues on the ground; there may be evacuees at the airport asking for transportation—be prepared for the unexpected.

Prepare for fuel shortages: Frequently throughout disaster areas, fuel supplies have often not been replenished or are in short supply. Furthermore, if fuel is available, there may be long waits to receive it or cash may be required to pay. Plan ahead and confirm alternate fuel sources or scenarios before beginning a mission.

Prepare for potential mechanical problems: Resources to help fix flat tires or fix aircraft discrepancies will likely not be available. Consider adding a few spare tires and other items that may be needed for any common mechanical issues to your aircraft. You do not want to get stuck in the disaster area due to an aircraft mechanical.


• Operate resourcefully with two pilots: Experience is very important during disaster, and the abnormal conditions during relief efforts call for experienced pilots who are instrument rated and current. The details surrounding a disaster relief flight can sometimes be challenging. The airspace is often populated with relief flights, military operations, search and rescue flights and a multitude of other aircraft. Having an extra set of eyes and ears in the cockpit can help reduce the workload and reduce the risk of having any traffic issues.

Stay on top of NOTAMS and TFR’s: Check them regularly, and again prior to departure, for every flight. They can be enforced at any time.

Utilize traffic avoidance systems: Radar and flight following may or may not be available in the disaster area. Flight operations will likely be in very high volume, including private and government aircraft, as well as helicopters.


• Recognize the end of a mission and identify lessons learned: One of the single most important things to occur after a disaster, is for regular commerce to resume. As government officials being to indicate that a region has recovered from an event, an abundance of donated supplies or donated flights can cause disruptions to normal local commerce. Take the lead from those on the ground, and recognize the end of the mission and allow the fragile economy to begin to grow.

Have any lessons learned that you’d like to share with us? Send us an email at skyhope@palservices.org.

About the Author
Robin Eissler is on the Board of Directors at Patient AirLift Services (PALS). She is an active advocate for the business aviation industry and is the founder of the PALS Sky Hope Disaster Relief Program, a program of PALS. Her successful coordination efforts during the business aviation relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma in 2017 have established her as the industry’s top expert on aviation disaster relief operations.

Robin is a Sales Director at jetAVIVA and has more than twenty years experience in aircraft sales and business operations. She was formerly the President and CEO of Jet Quest, Inc and under her leadership the company tripled in size in three years. Prior to jetAVIVA’s acquisition of Jet Quest, she was recognized by the Austin Business Journal as one of Austin’s Top 50 CEOs. Her expertise covers a broad range of aircraft types and she is experienced in a variety of aircraft management, tax and operational issues. She has personally completed hundreds of millions of dollars in aircraft transactions and her main focus is to help high net worth clients achieve their aviation goals. Her client list includes celebrities, Forbes 100 Billionaires and many small business owners.

In 2018 she was the first woman ever awarded the Texas Aviator of the Year by the TXDoT Aviation Division. She was the co-chair of the 2012 and 2013 NBAA Leadership Conferences and is also a Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) and has previously held a position on the NBAA CAM Governing Board.

Although no longer an active pilot, Robin holds a Private Pilot license. She is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University where she studied Business Management and Entrepreneurship. Robin and her husband, Trevor, have three children and live in Georgetown, Texas.

By : Robin Eissler /August 15, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

Maine Pilots Needed …Okay, Truth be Known, Pilots from Everywhere Needed

Maine Pilots Needed
…Okay, Truth be Known, Pilots from Everywhere Needed

By Tom Quinby

Just the other day while passing through a general store here in Maine, I caught a glimpse of the top headline for The Bangor Daily News, the largest newspaper serving the northern half of the state of Maine.

“Presque Isle Celebrates New Airline’s First Take Off”

Officials from Northern Maine were celebrating United Express’ new jet service from Presque Isle to Newark.

United Airlines is the replacement Essential Air Service (EAS) for PenAir. The service provides airlift from underserved regions to large air hubs. Since 2012, PenAir was providing daily flights from PQI- BOS and back. In addition, PenAir had generously donated seats to PALS for patient use when volunteer pilots were not available to transport them to medical treatment. With United taking over the contract, direct service to BOS has ceased, along with the vouchers offered to patients, and EWR is now the air hub for Northern Mainers.

If you’re flying your family to Florida for vacation, that’s fine, but for patients seeking medical treatment in Boston, this is no celebration. What if you have been traveling to BOS for months or years for just one hour appointments? Now your itinerary will have to be PQI-EWR-BOS-EWR-PQI. Can you imagine the delays? And that’s assuming you could afford the price of the ticket.

This is what our Northern Maine PALS passengers are now facing. No more commercial air service directly to BOS to accommodate their medical needs at Boston area hospitals.

Talk to any of our PALS Mission Coordinators, and they will tell you that missions from Maine are a large percentage of our mission demands. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough area pilots available to serve the demand from Northern Maine. With PenAir now gone as a resource, that leaves many passengers without viable options to receive life-saving medical treatment in Boston. And it leaves PALS struggling to find volunteers to meet the need.

Pilots, if you are able to help with one of these flights, I implore you to do so. For anyone considering some flight time in Maine airspace, being a lifeline to someone in need is a great motivation. But if that isn’t enough, here are some additional suggestions to help you point the nose of that airplane north-northeast….

Maine is a beautiful state to fly over.  Unrivaled with woods, water and coastal scenery.

Try some personal time in Maine, in your airplane, before or after a PALS mission.

Stop in PWM, the foodie and micro-brewery town. Check out the Transportation Museum in RKD. Visit Acadia National Park near BHB. Try some fishing in the areas of Greenville, 3B1 or Rangeley Lakes, 8B0. Count Lighthouses along the coast. Visit a few…

The airspace of Maine is amazing.  Scenic, traffic-free, and well-served by the radars of BOS center, PWM and BGR local radars.

By now, I bet you’re thinking that the 290 NM mile PQI-BOS run, is a little long for your 140 KT airplane. Don’t let that deter you. Our hard-working Mission Coordinators can reroute flights from Northern Maine through airports like LEW or PWM, and rely on southern New England pilots for that second leg to Boston. This would effectively reduce the northern leg by nearly 100 NMs. For a little added incentive, here’s a NOTAM about KLEW: the airport café:“Backwoods Bar B Que”, has a fabulous Smoker for delicious Ribs and Bar B Q meats.

Maine has a lot of PALS demand, and a lot to offer Pilots for rewarding destinations. Please think about adding some missions for memorable flights.

See you on the frequency…

About the Author

Tom Quinby is enjoying his second year as a Mission Assistant for PALS. His other cockpit is an MD-11 for FedEx. Prior to FDX, he spent 5 years at 5000’, flying for the regional BarHarbor Airlines based in KPWM. Now Tom calls his summer home, Yarmouth, Maine.

By : Tom Quinby /July 17, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

Education and Experience, the Perfect Pairing

patient airlift services and eaa imc club
by Ken Dustin

There are a lot of great reasons to fly for a charity like Patient AirLift Services (PALS). Reasons can include anything from altruism to simply being part of an aviation community. One reason we don’t talk about as much is proficiency. After you are trained and certified, now what do you do? Some use their pilot’s license to increase their radius of day trips and vacations. Some to support their business endeavors. Others keep training, knocking out their commercial, CFI, multi-engine, sea-plane, etc. Most pilots will agree you need a reason to fly. Boring holes in the sky quickly becomes just that: boring. You need a mission.

A lack of mission leads to a lack of flying. That leads to a dangerous lack of proficiency. Almost ten years ago I helped a fellow flight instructor start IMC Clubs International. Our mission was to help instrument rated pilots maintain their proficiency. In the early days of IMC Clubs, we developed a schedule of local missions (approaches at local airports) that pilots could fly to achieve levels in the club. The intention was for pilots to fly those missions, shoot those approaches in various conditions then attend meetings where they could share their experience and learn from one another.  As the organization grew and chapters were added across the country, the mission concept was dropped in favor of scenario-based education and group discussion. This preserved the sense of community and camaraderie while providing insightful education.

While IMC Clubs provides excellent education for pilots, the experience piece is missing. This is where a volunteer pilot organization like Patient AirLift Services  provides the perfect pairing. PALS gives instrument rated pilots a reason to fly, a mission. Most PALS missions involve providing fast, free transportation for patients to and from their treatments. These treatments are often long distances from the patient’s home and would mean long, uncomfortable hours of commuting with traffic and other delays. One such patient flies over 400 miles from Owl’s Head, ME to Philadelphia, PA. When I think of her, I think of the hugs she has for everyone along the way. I even receive a hand written thank you card in the mail. Flying that mission is a privilege and an honor.

This perfect pairing of experience and education is on display every 2nd Wednesday at Norwood Memorial Airport in Massachusetts. Mark Hanson, a volunteer pilot and board member at PALS, hosts a group of PALS pilots from the area. We gather at Taso’s restaurant on the field at Norwood (best Gyros in Boston). There are always great stories, helpful tips exchanged and just plain good fun. After the meal, we head next door to KOWD’s terminal building and attend the IMC Club (IMC’s flagship chapter). During that meeting pilots are presented with a scenario, usually a difficult situation a pilot has found himself in (usually culled from a real experience). Then the fun begins. All the pilots in the room are invited to think their way out of this tight spot. The discussion is always spirited.

I truly believe the pairing of these two organizations is the fulfillment of what we envisioned long ago, providing pilots an important reason to fly and sharing all those lessons learned from each flight. I would encourage IMC Club chapters, local hangar flying groups, and any pilot-based club to combine their meetings with a charity like Patient Airlift Services to add a strong sense of mission to their passion for aviation.

If you would like more information on how to make this happen, contact Mark Hanson at:

If you would like to start an IMC Club at your airport visit:

Fly safe!


About the Author

Ken Dustin is a Commercial Pilot and CFI and has been a PALS Pilot since 2016. He has a degree in business and a wide array of experience as a consultant. He has served as both a leader of projects and manager of people and resources. In roles as diverse as Flight Instructor to head of Sales and Marketing, Ken has met the challenges of understanding people, process and technology to meet client goals. Having unique experience as a founding member of a successful non-profit organization, Ken brings an understanding of challenges faced in this environment.

By : Ken Dustin /June 13, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

Fuel Reimbursement Equals More Missions

Fuel Reimbursement Equals More Missions

By Joe Sandberg


If you’re reading this, I know how much you love to fly as well as the gratification you feel from helping others through PALS with your passion and flying skills. But let’s face it, flying isn’t inexpensive. There is definitely a significant cost barrier associated with flying and inasmuch, any opportunity to save on fuel costs is welcome for most pilots.

As you may know, reimbursement for fuel is generally prohibited under Part 91. (For a good read on what the regs say about fuel reimbursement click here.)  Luckily, PALS has petitioned for and received an exemption from the FAA that allows them to legally reimburse qualifying pilots for fuel.

As with any exemption from the FAA, there are a few hoops to jump through to demonstrate an equivalent level of safety, but PALS has done their best to streamline the process and reduce the additional workload.

So, what does it entail, you ask? Firstly, you will need a second class medical. Next you need to complete three online courses, which can easily be completed in one sitting. Lastly, you need an IPC every 12 calendar months. There are some other conditions and limitations you’ll need to comply with as well. For example, reimbursement may only be made for flights that are for a medical purpose (“compassion” flights, such as PALS for Patriots, are excluded). You can learn more by clicking here.

As far as paperwork, it isn’t much different than the documents you already provide for your missions. There is a special affirmation and risk assessment form to complete prior to your mission and a simple fuel reimbursement application to complete after your mission.

At $.30 per mile it covers about a third of my fuel bill in my single engine Lance for the typical mission. (For multi or turbine aircraft the rate is $.45 a mile). It will never cover the entire cost of fuel (unless you fly a glider) but it allows me to fly more missions than I otherwise could. And for me, that is what it’s all about.

Of all the flying I do, the most meaningful flights are those I do for our PALS patients and their families. The true value of the PALS Fuel Reimbursement Program is not that it will pay for my missions, but that it allows me to afford to do more missions. In this case, more is better.

So, if you have thought about it, but thought it would be too complicated or time-consuming, I am here to tell you it’s not. If you have any questions about the program, feel free to contact palsmail@palservices.org.


About the Author

Joe is a Commercial pilot with over 3500 hours. He joined PALS in 2011 and has flown over 40 missions. He started his dental practice, South Jersey Center for Dental Medicine in 1985 and flies a Piper Lance out of South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY). His wife, Diana, of 37 years is now working on her private pilot and Joe on his CFI.

By : Joe Sandberg /May 31, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

What You Need to Know About Flying a Passenger on Oxygen

What You Need to Know About Flying a Passenger on Oxygen

By Mark Hanson


For most GA pilots, flying a passenger who requires supplemental oxygen is probably a rare occurrence.  But for volunteer pilots like us, the passengers we fly aren’t your typical, everyday passengers, and they have a variety of needs.

Every now and then when choosing a flight from the PALS Missions Available list, you may come across a note that says “Passenger Traveling with Oxygen”. This might raise some questions for you.  Can I legally take O2 on my aircraft? Is this person “too sick” to fly? How big is this thing? What else do I need to consider?

All that uncertainty might even lead you to bypass the flight.  But flying a passenger on oxygen isn’t as scary or complex as it may sound.

Here’s what you need to know about flying a passenger who needs supplemental O2:

Medical Concerns

All passengers who travel with PALS are medically stable and approved for flight in a small, non-pressurized aircraft by their physician.  Taking into account any medical equipment, the person’s physician has verified that they do not have any medical condition that could affect the safety of the flight or the passenger’s personal health or safety.

If you ever have any questions or concerns about a passenger, for any reason, don’t hesitate to ask a member of the PALS team. They’re there to help you and should be used as a resource.

FAA Compliance

Visions of a person toting a large O2 canister filled with hazardous compressed or liquid oxygen may leave you wondering about the legality of transporting a person with oxygen on board your aircraft.

Generally, the FAA prohibits the use of personal oxygen units during flight because they contain compressed gas or liquid oxygen that is defined as hazardous material. However, the FAA has issued guidelines permitting the onboard use of certain portable oxygen concentrators (POCs).

POCs approved by the FAA may be carried and used on board. All PALS passengers needing oxygen are required to provide it in an FAA approved concentrator.

For more reading on the rule see: 14 CFR 135.91 (e) – Oxygen and portable oxygen concentrators for medical use by passengers

Note: For purposes of this paragraph, an aircraft operator that is not a certificate holder under 14 CFR part 121 or part 135, may apply this exception in conformance with 14 CFR 121.574 or 135.91 in the same manner as required for a certificate holder.

Oxygen Concentrator Sizes Vary 

Not all POCs are created equal and sizes do vary.

Example of small concentrator

Some are very small and can sit in a passenger’s lap (see right), some can be quite large (see below) and will need to rest on the floor.

Example of large concentrator

Whenever a PALS passenger is traveling with an oxygen concentrator, the PALS staff will provide you with the dimensions and weight for the equipment so you can determine what may or may not work for you and your aircraft.  If you’re still unsure, ask for a picture. Most times, the passenger would be happy to provide one or PALS may even have one for your reference.

Stowing and Securing the Equipment

The larger POCs can a bit heavy, so you’ll want to be sure that the equipment is secured. The best place to put a concentrator is in a place where the passenger can see and hear any potential alarms coming from the device.  The intake filters on the device should remain free from blockage to prevent overheating and system shutdown. Be sure to leave the device open to air and don’t place anything on top of it.  You should also ensure that the equipment does not restrict access to, or use of, any required emergency or regular exit.

Power Supply and Battery Life

Most passengers will have a POC with batteries that last from 2-4 hours depending on the model.

Most airlines require the battery life for POCs to equal 150% of the flight time and it’s a good rule of thumb to suggest the same to your passenger.  So, if it’s a two hour flight, three hours of battery time would be optimum.

When briefing the passengers about your flight you should mention the flight duration so that they can do battery life planning.

Heads up: When batteries get low, there can be an audible alarm that goes off which can be loud.  On my checklist now, I am asking if the battery low alarm might go off in flight.  I also ask if it can or cannot be turned off.  The audible alarm is typically not so loud as to be distracting or disrupt communications with ATC.

There is no requirement for you to provide aircraft electrical power to a POC user but you may do so if you have the appropriate electrical outlets on board and chose to do so.

Planes with Oxygen

Some pilots may have oxygen supply in their aircraft that is passenger-accessible. Even if you do, you should not plan on using that for patients who require a POC.  Passengers are responsible for regulating their oxygen levels.  That said, you are PIC and should use common sense in assessing the need for changes to your flight, should you feel a passenger is having some kind of distress.

It should go without saying that all PALS Pilots are at liberty to (and should) decline any flight they feel uncomfortable making. But hopefully this information has helped demystify what it’s like to fly a patient on oxygen. Knowing what to expect can go a long way in easing any hesitations you might have had. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me or a member of the PALS team.


About the Author

Mark Hanson is a Commercial Instrument ASEL AMEL ASES pilot with an Eclipse 500 single pilot type rating, flying mostly for fun and PALS.  Mark is a member of the Pilot and Safety Committees at PALS, with experience from over 150 PALS missions including flights with a variety of POC devices.


By : Mark Hanson /May 10, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

Flying the PROTE – No Training, No Gaining

By Michael Peck

Hey you, pilot!  Feeling a little light headed?  Nah, everything is hunky-dory . . . hunky-duh . . . huny . . . hmmm.  Sure, a little shortness of breath, but you’ve been sitting for a while and you’re not as young as you used to be, so it’s probably normal.  And the rapid heart rate–just your imagination.  Good thing you never smoked (except every now and then–socially—whatever).  Fingernails seem a little blue, but maybe it’s the dwindling light.  You’re at about–what was that altitude again?  You glance with blinkered obliviousness at the pulse oximeter prudently attached to your finger – it reads 68%.  That’s a passing grade, isn’t it?  Oh, and the tasks you started to complete–simple enough to be sure–but, you know, in your current state of detachment you just don’t feel like doing them.  Could if you wanted to, though.  Odd how gray and narrowly focused the world has become.  But you’re just not interested, anymore,

are you . . .

are you . . .

are you?

pulse oxBy now, dear reader, you probably recognize the symptoms of hypoxia overtaking the pilot.  Is he or she doomed, you might ask?  Well, mercifully, no.  You see, our pilot is (more or less) comfortably ensconced in a Portable Reduced Oxygen Training Enclosure (PROTE) and in a few seconds, if he or she does not take any remedial action, a helpful representative of the FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) will assist the pilot in donning an oxygen mask.  After that, the hypoxia symptoms will disappear in a matter of seconds, but the queasiness might linger for a while.

I know this because last May at the FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, that pilot was me.

A lot has been written about hypoxia, and everyone who has passed the oral portion of a pilot certification exam can recite the cause–a lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood and tissues caused by a decrease in the partial pressure of oxygen which results from increasing altitude.  That is to say, as altitude increases the relative percentage of oxygen remains the same but the partial pressure (i.e., the distance between molecules) becomes greater, resulting in less oxygen being absorbed by the body.

hypoxia_symptoms_vs_o2_saturationMost pilots can name several indicative symptoms of hypoxia.  But unless you have experienced it in a controlled environment, you probably can’t identify the aspects that are peculiar to your body.  Hypoxia affects each of us in different ways–both the specific symptoms and their order of appearance can differ from person to person.  The bottom line, however, is the same for everybody–a loss of cognitive ability akin to being drunk (or so I’m told) and a mild sense of euphoria which makes everything seem alright–and ultimately, if left uncorrected, it leads to death.

The FAA does not require hypoxia training, but it is strongly recommended (see, AC 61-107B).  And in spite of what you may think, you don’t have to be an instrument pilot or fly at altitudes where oxygen is required in order to benefit from the experience.

You also don’t have to travel to Oklahoma (where the wind really does come “sweeping down the plain”) to participate in the training.  The FAA sends the PROTE and its staff around the country to offer a convenient opportunity for local pilots to intimately experience the impact of hypoxia.

The good news for you is that Patient AirLift Services (PALS) will be hosting the PROTE right here in the Northeast this June. 

In order to spare you an excruciating technical explanation of how the PROTE works, let me just say that it realistically approximates the oxygen deprivation a pilot would experience at 25,000 feet without supplemental oxygen.  At the beginning of the training session, the CAMI team provides a safety briefing as well as an in-depth explanation of what to expect.  Then you are given a form containing some very simple cognitive problems that you will be asked to solve and boxes in which you can record your personal hypoxia symptoms at designated intervals.  A pulse oximeter is placed on your finger to allow you to monitor your blood oxygen level as well as your pulse.  The atmosphere in the PROTE is then modified to the training altitude.  When you experience three symptoms of hypoxia or when you begin to feel uncomfortably impaired, you simply reach for your oxygen mask and the invigorating flow of O2 makes the world seem right again.  The “flight” lasts about five minutes, and virtually everyone is on oxygen by the time it ends.

PROTE 3One of the most entertaining aspects of a PROTE session is watching your fellow pilots.  The object of the exercise is to recognize and make note of symptoms heralding the onset of hypoxia.  It’s sort of like stall/spin awareness training.  But some intrepid souls don’t get the message and continue the exercise to a point where third-party intervention is required.  When this happens, a member of the CAMI team approaches what he or she believes to be an impaired pilot and asks some simple questions.  If the answers are not promptly forthcoming (and they almost never are), the PROTE monitor puts an oxygen mask on the pilot and, after a few seconds, asks whether he or she remembers the questions.  In the very few cases requiring intervention that I witnessed, the pilot could recall neither the questions nor the answers.  The PROTE offers each of us an opportunity to safely focus on subtle signs of hypoxia; it is a mistake to view it as a test of strength or stamina.

Be sure to put this training on your calendar. It fills up fast and PALS Pilots will receive exclusive early registration. Training sessions in the PROTE will be held at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport (FRG) from Thursday, June 7th, through Saturday, June 9th. The only requirements are that participants be licensed pilots at least 18 years of age and have a current Class I, II or III medical certificate.

PALS invites you to come fly the PROTE, learn more about your body’s unique reaction to reduced oxygen pressure and thereby become a safer pilot.  You never know when the knowledge you gain could make all the difference in the world. Register here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0e49aaa92ea7fd0-portable. For more information, contact PALS Pilot Coordinator Jen Hotsko: jen.hotsko@palservices.org

About the Author

MPP PhotoMichael P. Peck is a retired partner in the New York office of Sidley Austin LLP, where he practiced for 36 years in the area of asset-backed finance (including aircraft finance). He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he teaches courses in aviation law and is the Chair of the Aviation Finance Subcommittee of the Association of the Bar of The City of New York. Mr. Peck is a graduate of the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University, has JD and MBA degrees from Vanderbilt University, an MA degree from Duke University and a BA degree from Washington & Lee University.  He holds a commercial pilot’s certificate with instrument rating and is a certified flight instructor, instrument instructor and advanced ground instructor.


By : Michael Peck /April 04, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

Q&A: Woman Pilot, Shannon Osborne, Talks Volunteer Flying and Air Race Classic

Q&A: Woman Pilot, Shannon Osborne, Talks Volunteer Flying and Air Race Classic


March is Women in Aviation Month and here at PALS, we are proud to have quite a number of active women pilots among our ranks.  Today, we’re shining a spotlight on aviatrix extraordinaire, Shannon Osborne.

Shannon first came to PALS in 2014 and she’s been invaluable to the PALS community ever since.  Shannon is a co-pilot for PALS flights, but her services don’t end when the plane lands. She also serves as an Auto Pilot, helping to provide door-to-door service by driving patients from local airports to medical facilities or accommodations in New York City.  Her contributions of time and talent—both in the air and on the ground—have helped relieve the burden of transportation for dozens of PALS passengers.

Most recently, Shannon has decided to champion PALS in a new way: by flying the Air Race Classic in June!

We caught up with Shannon to talk PALS, Air Race Classic, and what it means to give back.

What got you into aviation?Shannon Osborne and granddaughter

Aviation started for me as a way to spend more time with my father, who is also a pilot.  Back when I was a girl, I would spend as much time as I could at the airport we lived on just to be near him.  Fortunately, his love of aviation rubbed off on me and some 30 plus years later, aviation is still a big part of my life in so many ways.

What attracted you to volunteer flying?

Well, my father got me into aviation, but it was my mother who got me into volunteering! A big part of my mother’s life was volunteer work. She spent a lot of time volunteering in orphanages, where she adopted me, and so she really instilled that virtue in me.  PALS allows pilots to be able to give back to those in need by helping fly patients from their home towns to distant locations for medical treatment.  It is a wonderful way to honor both my mother and my father.

What other organizations or causes do you support?

Aviation is such an important part of my life. I’ve really developed a great fellowship with the 99’s, specifically the New York New Jersey Section and also the community of women at Air Race Classic.  For the past several years I have volunteered at the start and the terminus at the ARC.

KathyFink&ShannonOsborneSpeaking of Air Race Classic, we hear you will be racing this year, tell us about it!

Yes! In June of 2018, I will be doing something I’ve always wanted to do: participate in my first race with Air Race Classic! Air Race Classic is the only all-women air race in the United States. It began in the early 1960’s as the Power Puff Derby.  This year’s race starts in Sweetwater, Texas, a place with a history of its own, as this was the training location for WASPS [women pilots] during World War II.  Each team can pick a name or theme and my team chose “PALS in Motion”.  PALS in Motion is the name PALS uses for their New York City Marathon runners each fall and I thought it was fitting for this race as well.

What made you choose to support PALS in such an amazing, unique way?

Flying an all-women air race and using our piloting skills is such a great way to spread the word about the PALS mission.  Our team will be racing with about 50 other planes, stopping in 10 states over 2,400 miles.  That’s a lot of opportunity to spread the word about the work PALS does! Hopefully, we can encourage other pilots to volunteer to fly missions as well!

How can we follow your progress?

You can watch our team, PALS in Motion – Classic 38, race from June 19th through the 22nd at www.airraceclassic.org  They keep race stats there and have a cool little tracker where you can see the location of the racers in real time. You can also get updates on Facebook.

ARC Route

Do you have a message to share?

My life has always been about living and pursuing my passion.  To me, being a part of PALS in Motion is a way to enjoy my passion while also spreading the word about how other pilots can share their passion while helping others.  Keep your eyes open this summer for PALS in Motion – Classic 38!

By : Stephanie Larkin /March 05, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

The Top Three Things to LOVE About PALS

by Dr. Lynn Myers

My husband, Irv, and I have been volunteering with Patient AirLift Services since 2012, but like many of you, our story got started with a love for flight.

Irv has had a passion for flying since his teenage years. He received his private pilot license 46 years ago and has gone on to get a commercial certificate with instrument and multi-engine ratings.  As for me, my journey in aviation began after Irv purchased his Bonanza A36.

Before then, our flights were few and far between.  We both worked full-time and the flying club we belonged to was a 45-minute drive from our home. Once Irv bought that Bonanza, I knew we would be flying more frequently and I wanted to gain some aviation knowledge.  I began lessons and earned my private pilot license in 2005 and my instrument rating in 2006.  I now fly with the Warrington Flying Club at Doylestown Airport, a 20-member flying club that owns a G1000 2008 Skylane and a G1000 2006 Skyhawk.

One day I was perusing a flying magazine when I saw an ad for PALS.  I thought it was such a fantastic way to help people and also give purpose to my flying, so I signed up right away.  After my first PALS mission, I told Irv that he MUST become involved!  His Bonanza is the perfect platform since it has a great payload and is a bit faster than my 182.

It’s been nearly six years now that Irv and I have been part of PALS and we’ve had such a great experience!  We both take flights whenever our schedules allow and we’ve found that it really adds joy and purpose to our flying in so many ways.

Here are the top three things we love about PALS:

1. The Office Coordination

PALS is very supportive of their volunteer pilots and makes scheduling and planning easy. There is a lot of work that goes into making up schedules, contacting pilots, dealing with weather issues and so forth.  The PALS team always does this with a positive attitude and great efficiency.

Recently, Irv and I were transporting two rescue dogs from New York to Pennsylvania, when we received a call from Amanda at PALS. She asked Irv for help with a flight to Philadelphia so that Reese, a young man with eye cancer, could be seen by Shields and Shields who are world renowned for ocular oncology at Wills Eye Hospital.  Fortunately, the mission was on a Sunday when we were both available!  Another PALS Pilot, John Corneal, flew the first leg of the journey, transporting Reese and his wife from Michigan to State College in his Mooney.  Irv and I then flew from State College to Philadelphia where a volunteer driver or “Auto-Pilot”, Andrew Masone, picked them up and drove them to their hotel in the city.  The couple subsequently made it back home with the help of a corporate partner who donated use of their private jet.

PALS brought it all together—general aviation pilots, ground transport volunteers and business aviation—to make this trip as efficient and easy as possible for the passengers. They enable patients an easy and free means of travel to distant medical facilities and are at the pinnacle of volunteer organizations in my opinion. They are simply devoted to connecting people in need of medical transport with the PALS family of pilots. And speaking of that family of pilots…

2. Being Part of a Pilot Family

I will never forget my first flight with PALS.  Wow, was I nervous! But to my rescue came PALS Pilot Greg Vallino.  A few weeks before the flight, Greg called me, introduced himself and asked if he could be my co-pilot.  Greg took care of the paperwork, contacting the patient, and helped make the flight smooth and enjoyable by helping with the little details.  He also remembered to take photos – which I ALWAYS forget to do.  It was the beginning of a friendship with a very special person.

Relationships like this are typical at PALS. The organization works hard to ensure that PALS pilots are part of a community.  They plan get-togethers locally as well as at aviation events so that members can get to know each other.  Being able to meet other PALS Pilots face-to-face really helps you feel part of a team.  You feel that support from the get-go.

3. The Privilege to Help People in Need


There is nothing better than seeing the smile on a passenger’s face when he or she is enjoying the view out the window, or just the comfort of getting to their destination efficiently.  Irv and I are both fortunate to have the resources to volunteer and help patients in need through PALS. Being able to make someone’s journey both easier and less stressful is a true privilege.

I remember one flight for a five-year-old boy who was coming home from cancer treatment in New York City.  Before the flight, the boy told his dad that he was going to be awake the entire trip so he could look outside. He was asleep minutes after takeoff.  Rather than an eight to ten-hour drive, this trip was a mere two-hour flight, which was a lot less stressful for the entire family.  Seeing the reunion with his mom upon landing really made my heart skip a beat. It’s these little things that remind me what an impactful thing we’re doing.

The privilege to help people in need through PALS is something that brings special meaning and joy to our flying.  It’s an honor to meet such brave people and their families and to help make their journey a bit easier!

The love that comes with making a difference is like no other.  Now that you’ve heard a few things we love about PALS, I hope you’ll consider joining and discover a love of your own.

About the Author

Picture1Dr. Lynn Myers is an instrument-rated private pilot and has been a member of PALS since 2012. She is a native of Williamsport, PA and attended Gettysburg College where she earned a BA in chemistry in 1981, graduating with honors (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude). She attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 1986. Dr. Myers then practiced equine medicine in southeastern New York State from 1986-1988 where she was involved in neonatal intensive care and reproduction. In 1988 Dr. Myers joined a 3-person equine practice in the Bucks/Montgomery County area specializing in treating performance horses. In 1998 she opted to give up equine medicine and pursue a career in small animal medicine which has allowed her professional life great variety and enjoyment.

Lynn lives in Blue Bell with her husband Irv Stein, who is also a PALS Pilot, and their furry kid Elijah, a rescued domestic short hair kitty.  In addition to flying PALS missions, Lynn also volunteers with Animal Lifeline PA and enjoys skiing, golf, scuba diving and hiking in her free time.

By : Lynn Myers /February 12, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More

How One Text Message and a few Volunteer Pilots Saved the Day

By Lee Verrone

I remember the day pretty well.  That morning, I had to attend my wife’s work picnic. This was not something I was especially enthused about, but you know how those things go.  As a pilot, it’s been my habit to get a daily weather observation in the morning—even when I’m not planning to fly—and the weather that day was particularly favorable. There were few clouds and good winds and I remember thinking what a shame it was that I wouldn’t get to fly that day.  I thought about putting my flight bag in the car, just in case I got to leave the picnic early. But I decided against it to avoid temptation. 

I imagine Mark Hanson remembers that day pretty well too.  Mark, a fellow PALS Pilot, was scheduled to fly a six-year-old boy named Cody, and his mom, Kate, from their home near Lewiston, Maine, to New York City for treatment of Cody’s neuroblastoma.  Mark flew from his home base at PYM all the way to LEW to meet his passengers.  After loading them in his Eclipse 500, he began configuring for takeoff, when suddenly… every pilot’s worst nightmare. Flap failure! 

Clearly, that plane wasn’t going anywhere and Cody and his mom might not make that important appointment after all.

So, I’m at this picnic in New York, making small talk with my wife’s co-workers about some flying adventures we do and some charity flights, when I received a text message: “PALS team needs your help…”

PALS uses a Twilio SMS text alert system whenever in a pinch, and as soon as Mark alerted the PALS team that he was grounded, the on-call coordinator, Barbara, acted swiftly and sent out an alert.

The text came in.

This could be it. 

My chance to truly help someone in need (and let’s be honest, also my ticket out of here).  I knew that it would be a very quick flight up to New England because of the helping winds.  My wonderfully understanding wife agreed that this boy was much more important than any picnic, and so I let Barbara know I was heading out to pick up my gear and would be at LEW in less than two hours.

I said my good-byes to all the folks I had recently met. When they asked where I was going, I explained that I was off to Maine (WHAT!!!) to do a PALS mission for someone in need. They were all impressed that such a service exists. It’s safe to say, no one begrudged me an early departure.

Meanwhile, back in Lewiston, Mark was exploring his options. He needed to somehow get from Maine back home to Plymouth, Massachusetts. And what would become of the plane?  He called fellow PALS Pilot, George Turner, who answered his cell phone on one ring.  George, like Mark, is based at PYM and Mark hoped he could perhaps give him a ride back home.  George was always glad to help, but it turned out he was just sitting down for a glass of wine before dinner.  In Italy.  Without giving Mark time to comment, George offered to call on their hangar neighbor, Jason W., from PYM to see if he might be able to help.  As good luck would have it, Jason was at the airport about to practice approaches in the IMC weather.  Jason, always up for an adventure, decided that helping a PALS pilot in need was more important and headed on to LEW instead.

Lee Verone and CodyAs for me, I was off to the airport.  I launched from HPN around 3pm and I arrived at LEW around 4:15 to meet Mark and my passengers.  Cody seemed to be a bit disappointed at first. He was bummed that he was not going to be flying in a jet after all, and that my plane, a Columbia 300, had only one propeller.  I gave him a little Snoopy stuffed animal which cheered him up and Cody and Mom settled comfortably into the plane. Once we were at cruise, Cody seemed to be more comfortable with me and the plane and seemed to enjoy the ride.  As we approached the New York area, some weather rolled in, so we ended up going through some rain and clouds. Cody seemed to really enjoy that experience.   

We landed ILS 16 around 715 pm. PALS had arranged for an Uber so the passengers could get from the airport to their destination. Coming from a rural area of Maine, Uber is not a very common thing, so I showed Kate how to use it.  The car came, I gave Cody and Kate a hug and wished them well in their journey.  

Mark made it home, thanks to Jason, who also managed to get in a practice approach into PYM in IMC.  Some LEW based PALS pilots arranged to get Mark a ‘no charge’ hangar for his plane while he worked out a ferry permit.

In the end, it all worked out.  I was saved from an awkward social event (sorry, honey), the passengers made it to their destination, and Mark made it home with his plane safely stowed away. 

They say that teamwork makes the dream work, and at PALS, that is certainly true.  It is truly a team effort to do what we do. I am thankful for the coordination staff and also for the support of an extraordinary pilot community.  It always makes me happy when things come together to help others.

About the Author

Lee has been flying volunteer flights for over eight years and has been a volunteer pilot with PALS since 2014.  He is an instrument-rated Private Pilot with over 2500 hours.  With a life-long passion for flying, he completed his first solo flight at the age of 32—in only eight hours of training! By 12 hours, he owned his own aircraft. 

Lee graduated with an Information Technology Degree from Lynchburg College, and has been working in IT for over 30 years. He’s been with MetLife for 20 of those years, which is where he met his understanding wife. 😉

Besides a passion for flying and desire to help others, Lee flies PALS flights to help honor his late sister, Toni-Marie Hals, who lost her 6-year battle with ovarian cancer 5 years ago.  

“Experiencing first-hand what these types of health issues bring to a family is taxing, so whatever I can do to help is a good thing.”Lee Verrone and Plane

By : Lee Verrone /January 30, 2018 /PALS Pilot Squawk /0 Comment Read More