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.

flight requests

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.

Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices

Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices
Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices 2

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

• 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.

Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices 3

PREPARE

• 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.

Disaster Relief Flying Best Practices 4

OPERATE

  • Operate resourcefully with two pilotsExperience 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.

REFLECT

  • 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 [email protected].

About the Author
robin

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.

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

maine pilots

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”

maine pilots 2

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.

maine pilots 3

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….

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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.

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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.

Education and Experience, the Perfect Pairing

Pilot Perfect Pairing

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.

Pilot Perfect Pairing 2A 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.

Pilot Perfect Pairing 3

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:
[email protected]

If you would like to start an IMC Club at your airport visit:
https://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/aviation-communities-and-interests/imc-club

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.

Fuel Reimbursement Equals More Missions

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 [email protected]

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.

What You Need to Know About Flying a Passenger on Oxygen

flying a passenger

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

PCOsNot all POCs are created equal and sizes do vary.

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.

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

equipmentThe 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

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.