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Through rain, hail and shine: Angel Flight’s new plane keeps service going

Not a single flight has had to be cancelled since Angel Flight East Kootenay started using their new plane
Passengers aboard Angel Flight East Kootenay’s newest plane, a Cessna 414a, which can fly above poor weather and keep flights going. (Image courtesy of Todd Weselake / Angel Flight East Kootenay)

Since it first took the sky as Angel Flight East Kootenay’s newest aircraft in December 2021, the twin-engine Cessna 414a has been proving its value for East Kootenay residents in need of medical care.

The plane was bought in order to increase reliability for the East Kootenay charity which ferries residents to health appointments in Kelowna, bypassing winter roads and winding mountain passes. The larger, pressurised plane can go higher over bad weather – and that trait meant that since December 15 when it first took off, it had been the only plane available capable of keeping flights going.

“We have not managed to do a flight on anything other than the 414 because the weather’s been so terrible,” said president and co-founder of Angel Flight, Brent Bidston. “We’ve managed to carry a lot of people as a result.”

So far, 57 patients have been transported from their home region of East Kootenay through to Kelowna on the 414 – with more on the way.

“Here we are only halfway through February, and we’ve already done 12 flights. Since using this plane we’ve not cancelled a single flight due to weather. It’s doing what we were hoping it was going to do.”

The charity had sought out and purchased a more capable aeroplane in 2021 in order to increase reliability. Other, smaller plans they had been using were unpressurised and didn’t have de-icing capabilities, meaning that weather conditions would kibosh the occasional booked flight – which wasn’t good for patients heading to Kelowna for things like cancer treatments.

The charity had sought out, and received significant funding from the Regional District of East Kootenay last year, securing a $500,000 grant over five years to support the purchase of the new plane – and Bidston said it was money well spent.

“The aeroplane is doing exactly what we said it would do. We’re flying in forecast icing, it’s pressurised so we’re going high … patients are not affected at all (and) it’s much easier for people to get into the plane. We’ve had some fairly frail folk manage to get in there.”

READ MORE: Angel Flight East Kootenay’s new plane takes to the skies
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