April 10, 2019
Angel Flight Southeast (AFSE) is part of the Air Charity Network – a diverse coalition of volunteer humanitarian organizations that use business aircraft to transport medical patients to distant hospitals for treatment, and frequently supports relief efforts after natural disasters.
Steve Purello, executive director of Leesburg, FL-based AFSE, noted that volunteers performed 100 missions to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, transporting critically-needed supplies to the stricken territory, and flying patients away from the damage zone.
“With no electricity and just a few generators available, kidney dialysis patients were only able to undergo about an hour of treatment at a time,” he explained. “We flew them out onboard small aircraft, along with a chartered [Embraer] ERJ-135. We saved a lot of lives.”
Each year, pilots flying on behalf of the Air Charity Network, the world’s largest integrated volunteer pilot organization flying medical missions, perform approximately 22,000 missions in Texas and across the southeastern U.S.
“Our pilots flew in cases of specialized formula for a baby at the local children’s hospital,” Purello said, recalling one particularly memorable mission in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. “Two military pilots were waiting to tell them more of that formula was needed, or else other babies out in the flood zone wouldn’t make it through the night. They wound up loading up a Black Hawk helicopter with formula.”
AFSE volunteers transported supplies including food, personal care items and water filters to areas along the Florida panhandle stricken by Hurricane Michael. “We’re fortunate to have enough short-field capable aircraft that allow us to respond in areas hit by disaster,” Purello said.