Anderson has made more than a hundred flights with individuals who have pressing medical needs. He initially joined to receive more air time. The patients in both programs have since stolen Anderson’s heart.
“When I met that young man, saw his activity, and heard those stories, I didn’t want to do Angel Flight anymore because it was fun to fly. I wanted to do Angel Flight because it was such a joy to fly these people and meet them,” Anderson said. “I have met all kinds of people.”
The “young man” was in reality a small boy. Brain cancer had made him blind, but his tenacious spirit made him a marvel. Anderson picked the boy and his mother up and flew them to the next airport in their journey. Another pilot waited to take them on the next leg of their journey.
The pilot told Anderson he was usually the one who hauled the child and his mother from point A to point B. There was a familiarity between the mother, child and pilot. The young boy proved this by saying he wanted to call his father.
“He borrowed the airplane pilot’s credit card. This was a six-year-old who was blind,” Anderson said. “He had made this trip many times and he knew his way around the Dyersburg Fixed Base Operator and he knew where the telephone was. I was amazed.”
Taking the credit card, the six-year-old then made the call by feeling the upraised numbers on the card.
“I was sitting with the pilot and he told me he knew this boy very well,” Anderson said. “He said, ‘Two trips ago his mother told me the day of the trip, she had had a conversation with her son at breakfast when he indicated he was going to be OK because he had a visit from Jesus. She said the night before, Jesus had appeared to him and indicated to him that things were probably going to get better.’”
“There was a light in the bedroom and when the light went out the boy woke up. His father came in and when his father came in, he told him about this eventuality. His father then told his wife and, as it turns out, on that trip it indicated his brain cancer was in remission,” Anderson continued. “This trip it indicated there had been no change from the trip before.”
Flights usually last no longer than three to three and a half hours. Longer trips can be completed with the help of additional pilots. Angel Flight and Lifeline are in charge of logistics. Anderson receives a call about the who, what and when. Pilots take over the coordination once everyone is committed.
“There was a little girl who had a problem with her palate, which was growing out of control. As she grows up, she needs to go to Boston once a year...to have an operation which cuts her palate back. This stops whenever she is 18 or 20— whenever the palate quits growing.”
“When she is ready to go home, she gets on an Angel Flight from Boston to New Jersey. From New Jersey a pilot meets her on time, within 30 minutes, to take her to West Virginia,” Anderson continued. “I get up at o’dark thirty and I fly up to West Virginia and meet her there within 30 minutes of the time she arrives there. I take her down to Huntsville, Ala. Then some good ol’ Southern boy will pick her up and take her down to Louisiana where she lives near Baton Rouge.”
All pilots in the program are volunteers who pay their own fuel to make these trips. Gasoline costs $7 a gallon at larger airports and $6.00-$5.65 at smaller airports. According to Anderson, an equivalent for his Cessna to a car is about 15 miles to the gallon. Sunrise Rotary currently aids Anderson in paying for the fuel. Money can be donated to Sunrise Rotary with the intention of going toward Anderson’s fuel fund.
“I do not want to take all of this credit myself as there are several of us in the area,” Anderson said. “Lately, Mark Johnson has flown some flights in both his aircraft and Anderson’s.”
Kiwanis members listened attentively throughout Anderson’s presentation.
“First of all, I want to applaud you for what you are doing. That is extraordinary— and applaud Rotary for giving to your work. It is great you are able to do that,” said club member Matt Ryerson.