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Angel Flight offers B.C. cancer patients free flights to hospitals

Non-profit reduces transportation costs
Angel Flight pilot Ted and a patient named Charlie. (Photo courtesy of Angel Flight)

Natasha Baldin/Contributor

Angel Flight of British Columbia provides a free and memorable transportation experience for cancer patients travelling to and from medical appointments – including out of Victoria International Airport.

The not-for-profit, volunteer-led organization offers free and private flights to and from hospitals for ambulatory cancer patients and children with non-communicable illnesses, alleviating the burden of transportation costs.

Since its first takeoff in 2002, the organization has carried 2,031 people to and from 19 airports around Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast and Metro Vancouver.

Jeff Morris, CEO of Angel Flight, is a former Royal Air Force and commercial pilot. Now retired, he dedicates his time to managing flights, pilots and other operations.

Since becoming involved with the organization in 1999 and taking over as CEO in 2006, Morris has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours while working out of his home in Sidney to ensure every flight takes off smoothly.

“My reward is the satisfaction I get from helping people,” he said.

Flights are operated by 29 volunteer pilots scattered across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland in single-engine, four-seat airplanes. Morris added the organization also works with volunteer drivers who transport patients to and from Angel Flight planes at the Victoria Flying Club in North Saanich and the Vancouver International Airport.

In addition to the importance of relieving the financial burden, Morris said it is important to him to provide patients with a memorable experience while flying over British Columbia’s scenic landscapes.

“They’re not a cancer patient (for the duration of the flight) — they’re a passenger in a small airplane,” he said.

“It’s very important that we don’t put pressure on them to pay.”

The experience also offers the added reassurance for immunosuppressed patients who no longer have to rely on planes, buses and ferries where they run an increased risk of catching a virus.

“The last thing they want to travel on is an airplane with a lot of people,” Morris said. “(Angel Flights) isn’t just saving them anguish and costs, it’s providing them with a safe environment to travel.”

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