Angel Flight West helps Yuma area families with free medical flights
For those with serious and long-term medical conditions, a constant need to travel to Phoenix or San Diego can be a drain – both financially and physically.
Instead of driving back and forth, such patients have the option of mounting up with wings like eagles thanks to Angel Flight West.
The nonprofit organization consists of volunteer pilots who taxi patients back and forth between cities at no cost.
And they have been doing so for about 40 years.
Alan Underwood is a Command Pilot with Angel Flight West, who spoke to KAWC before taking a Yuma family to Phoenix on Tuesday morning from Million Air near the Yuma International Airport.
“We're not burning up their car, we're not going through their finances,” he said. “It's our volunteers that are doing that. Last year, our pilot volunteers donated over $8,000,000 in like kind donations, because we love what we do.”
During this flight, Underwood was transporting the Liggett family of Yuma whose son 5-year-old AJ has near constant medical appointments in the Phoenix area.
“For a year, we were going sometimes 3-4 times a month,” said AJ’s mother, Alexis.
Travel time for AJ, his mom and his caregiver has been reduced to about one hour each way as opposed to their usual six hour round trip.
AJ, who uses a ventilator to help him breathe, will experience greater comfort. Alexis said she will have more time and energy for both of her children – she also has a daughter – as her trip will be less arduous.
Alexis said that the flights have been a life-changer
“Gosh, it just brings so much more like quality of life. It gives us more family time together.”
Angel Flight West is teaming up with Yuma Regional Medical Center to offer the program to more Yuma families and patients of all ages.
“Anybody that's traveling for a prolonged period of time – anything more than maybe one trip – is going to constitute a burden, either logistically or financially on someone,” Underwood said. “Those are the people that we want to serve.”
Alexis hopes other Yuma families choose the program.
"I really do hope people take advantage of this service. The pilots and just everybody there, even when you call and schedule it, they're just absolutely amazing.
Underwood says the nonprofit is in need of additional volunteer pilots.
For more information, visit angelflightwest.org.
YRMC is an underwriter for KAWC.