June 15, 2016

Ohio-based Castle Aviation recently completed its 50th mission for the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC), and owner Michael Grossmann said the operations have have changed his life.

“These trips have changed my life because of what the veterans have done for this country,” said Castle Aviation owner Michael Grossman. “Their pain and suffering is incredible, but so are their positive attitudes. It’s very humbling to hear these heroes who have given so much call us – their pilots and aircraft owners – ‘heroes’.”

The VAC, through volunteer aircraft owners and pilots, provides free transportation to combat wounded and other veterans, as well as their families, for medical and other compassionate purposes.

On one mission, Grossmann flew a 22-year-old Army veteran who completed nine deployments, but was hit by a drunk driver in his own driveway and lost both of his legs. Castle Aviation transported the veteran to Walter Reed National Military Center for follow-up treatment.

Castle Aviation, a Part 135 on-demand charter operator, is an unusual VAC volunteer – the vast majority of volunteers are Part 91 flight departments or private individuals. In some cases, the VAC passengers fly along with company employees on business trips.

“We have over 2,500 volunteer aircraft owners and pilots around the country,” said Walt Fricke, VAC’s chairman, CEO and founder. “We’d like to have 10,000. We want to be able to tell someone who has a valid reason to fly with us, ‘We’ve got you covered,’ right away.”

For now, when a flight request is made the requester often must wait several days or longer to learn if VAC volunteers can cover the flight. As Fricke explained, this means worry and anxiety for veterans with amputations, traumatic brain injuries and other serious injuries who already face enough challenges without wondering if they will find transportation to medical treatments or for other important purposes.

Fricke said no commitment is too small, insisting, “If a volunteer flies only one mission in two years, that was the mission we needed covered.”

Castle Aviation’s involvement with the VAC began three years ago at an industry conference where Grossman met Fricke.

“These guys inspire me,” said Grossmann. “I am blessed that I can do this many trips.”

Learn more about VAC.