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NAA and ACA to honor pilots and aviation volunteers for helping those in need


“I feel like I got caught hand in the cookie jar,” says John Lunseth, pilot and longtime volunteer for Angel Flight Central, based in Kansas City, Missouri. “I do what I do because I love it.”

Lunseth was recently surprised to learn that the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), in partnership with the Air Care Alliance (ACA), will honor him as a Distinguished Volunteer Pilot. The 2022 Organizations Public Interest Flying Awards recognize volunteer pilots, as well as other volunteers and organizations committed to flying to help others and those who support this work.

For Lunseth, there’s more than one cookie in that jar.

On November 18, Angel Flight Central will honor the pilot, who is also an intellectual property attorney, with its Lewis Young Pilot of the Year award. According to the NAA, since 2011, Lunseth has flown more than 93 Angel Flight missions, donating the use of his aircraft — and fuel costs totaling more than $61,000 — to provide non-emergency medical flights for relief purposes. health and humanitarian care.

Lunseth says as soon as he logged the 500-hour minimum that Angel Flight requires to volunteer as a pilot, he signed up. “It seemed like a fun thing to do as a way to help out,” he says.

In his Mooney M20K 231, he says he “carried hundreds of pounds of blood and bone marrow donations,” from breast milk to medically fragile babies, HIV-positive children in special summer camps, and patients.

According to Lunseth, the relationships, albeit temporary, he forms with his passengers are one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering.

“I can’t be the only one who started and said, ‘The $100 burger is getting old, I gotta do something useful. “”

David Knies

“In most cases, patients are anxious, not so much about the flight, but about what’s going on with them,” he says. Many of the patients he has transported are battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments. “It’s a real ordeal for them and we see them sink little by little, and we don’t win every time,” he said. “[But] you strike up a conversation and you spend two hours with them. And you hope that at the end of the flight, they feel a little better and have a little more hope, and that they feel like there’s someone else by their side .

Another thing Lunseth finds rewarding is knowing that the donation of his plane and time goes 100% to the recipients. For most nonprofits, only a percentage of donations go directly to programs, and the other percentage pays for administrative and fundraising costs. “The real thrill is that the gift goes directly to the person sitting in the right place,” he says.

Lunseth isn’t the only Angel Flight volunteer the NAA and ACA will recognize with a 2022 Utility Flight Award.

Flipping the $100 burger

David Knies also volunteered for Angel Flight. In his twenties, he chaired the board of Angel Flight Southeast. He has also volunteered for Angel Flight Soars, Vital Flight, FlyQuest (a STEM education organization), and the ACA. The latter, a partner of the Public Benefit Flying Awards, helps refer patients and volunteer pilots to nonprofit flying organizations that provide free flights for medical and humanitarian purposes and lobby for legislative support for their activities. Knies will receive the NAA/ACA award for outstanding achievement in advancing public service flight.

With more than 2,300 flying hours, David Knies regularly uses his Cessna 210 to get non-emergency patients where they need to go. [Courtesy: David Knies]

According to the NAA, Knies has dedicated more than half of his life to flying patients for free and supporting organizations that facilitate such flights. He owns a travel agency, a Cessna 210, and works as an office manager for Air Comfort Control, a residential air conditioning company in Huntsville, Alabama.

Knies said at one point that he wanted to be a commercial airline pilot. While trying to rack up his flying hours in the late 1990s, he discovered that Angel Flight Georgia and Angel Flight Southeast were looking for pilots. He was hooked.

He says he enjoys difficult-to-schedule flights the most, whether due to passenger and cargo weight, range or routing. “I see them as missed opportunities,” he says. “My backup mission is to use my travel agency business and buy them a plane ticket.”

Knies encourages other pilots to volunteer for public benefit flying organizations.

“There never seems to be an end to the number of people who need help, but there always seems to be that finite number of people willing or able to help,” he says. “I can’t be the only one who started and said, ‘The $100 burger is getting old, I gotta do something useful. “”

Knies, who sits on the ACA’s board of directors, said his desire to raise awareness of the services offered by public interest flying organizations – and the opportunities for pilots to help – led him to get involved with the ACA. He suggests that those in need of a non-emergency medical flight, and the pilots who are willing to fly them, reach out to the TO THAT.

Other 2022 Public Interest Flight Winners

In addition to Lunseth and Knies, the NAA and ACA will recognize:

Wayne Maynard – Distinguished Volunteer Pilot

Maynard, who has served as chairman of Angel Flight South Central’s board of directors since 2019, and is a CPA and certified financial planner, “embodies selflessness in his unwavering commitment to charitable flying and helping others,” according to the report. NAA. “His dedication to undertaking as many missions as possible, even in the most difficult times, while providing compassionate care to his passengers, is inspiring.”

Staff Sgt. Michael Fontaine – Distinguished Volunteer

An active-duty military liaison for Honor Flight San Antonio, Fontaine coordinated full logistical support for two complimentary flights that provided war veterans with all-expenses-paid trips to visit their memorials in Washington, DC, according to the NAA. Fontaine also worked to secure funding for special events and honored trips, planned and executed fundraising events, briefed personnel at various airlines and security agencies to promote and garner support for the flight’s mission. honor of San Antonio, and has established a recognition program for active duty military volunteers who devote time to honoring our nation’s heroes, according to the NAA.

The National Business Aviation Association – Public Interest Flying Champion

“The NBAA has a long history of supporting the work of charitable aviation by helping individuals and communities in need through business aviation and by telling the stories of volunteer pilots and other charitable organizations across the aviation,” says the NAA. Additionally, the people of the NBAA donate their time, effort, and personal involvement to engage in public service flying, and have provided their facilities, publications, and other resources to significantly advance the missions of all groups, according to the NAA.

The 2022 Public Interest Flight Awards will be presented at a date and location to be determined. For more information: www.naa.aero.