Brent Bidston, chief pilot, taxiing for takeoff. Photo Submitted

Angel Flight giving wings to East Kootenay residents

Angel Flight, a Transport Canada approved charity, is making leaps and bounds over the rugged interior mountains of B.C. in aid of ailing individuals and their families. The free service, which has raised nearly $20,000 through a Save-On-Foods rounding up program, flies from several airports in the East Kootenay to the Okanagan. Angel Flight is a volunteer-led organization with no paid employees. Their pilots are experienced, and “volunteer their time away from work and their families.”

“Each flight is planned based on the individual requirements of the client, their appointment times, and time necessary to get to the treatment facility,” according to their website. “We usually require a minimum of 72 hours to arrange for your flight. Weather conditions such as fog and high winds can delay or ground our flights.”

Brent Bidston, president and lead pilot of Angel Flight is enthusiastic about safety and the performance of his charity.

“Our first flight was for a 15 minute consult,” he said. “That saved 15 hours of driving. Five months we’ve been going, and since then we have had 33 requests for flights from 24 different people, because we’ve flown some more than once. From that we have done 10 round trips. That’s about 25 hours worth of flying, and we have another two this week and one on the weekend.”

Bidston said Angel Flight flies small unpressurized aircraft that are not suitable for everybody.

“We direct those people to Hope Air,” he said. “So we do not fly people with medical emergencies. The air ambulance does medical emergency. We do everything else. So we bring them back from medical emergencies and we take them for scheduled appointments. The gentleman we are taking in tomorrow is having an operation. He is from Creston. Then we will bring him back on the weekend.”

Bidston said that fifty per cent of the people that Angel Flight has carried live in Cranbrook.

“The rest are from Sparwood, Fernie, Baynes Lake and Invermere,” he said. “We are looking at Golden and Kimberley as well.”

Patients are permitted to bring a family member or friend on the flight said Bidston.

“Flights are free of charge,” he said. “There is no means testing. All flights so far have been from Cranbrook. We hope to change that this weekend. And we are actively recruiting more pilots to expand our service in the East Kootenay.”

Bidston said he has two main problems; public awarness of the service and raising money.

“We never know how much money we will need,” he explained. “Save-On-Foods have been fantastic. They did the round up the dollar thing at all six of their East Kootenay stores at the same time. And it was brilliant. They raised $19,500 for us in two weeks. That’s a lot of fuel. We are hoping they are going to make it an annual event.”

To make a donation to Angel Flight, please visit Angelflightek.ca/#donate or call 250-430-7057.

All donations are tax deductible, a great opportunity for private and corporate giving.

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