Some people fly a plane to another city just as easily as others cruise down Thompson Bridge Road to the grocery store. Gainesville’s Lee Gilmore Memorial Airport has been a launching pad for many using those aviation skills to give back to the community. Flying people, pets and the next generation of aviators, Gainesville pilots are serving well.
A 10 year old boy fled from his burning home to learn that he was the only member of his family to make it outside. He suffered serious burns on 80% of his body as he made his way back in again to rescue his parents, who did not survive the fire. After initial medical care, the young boy needed a special treatment offered at the Shriners Hospital Burn Unit in Cincinnati. Gainesville pilot, Winn Fletcher, loaded the boy and a nurse into a Cessna 421, and helped deliver him to Cincinnati. After the trip, Fletcher received a touching thank you note from the boy, which he treasures to this day.
Charles George, another pilot with a heart to serve, has been flying one particular patient for six years. The gentleman who had been winning his battle with leukemia for almost four decades believes the secret to his success is his ability to travel to research centers, participating in trials that keep his cancer at bay. Charles regularly flies the patient to his appointments, all over the eastern seaboard. They have become friends as he helped this cancer survivor.
When not transporting patients to medical appointments, Charles can be found picking up a different kind of passenger. Rescue pets being saved from “kill shelters” are often matched with new families in far-away states. Charles and other pilots volunteer their time to pick up these animals and deliver them to the new owners.
When a beautiful German Shepherd was found in the middle of the interstate in Nashville and efforts to locate his owner were unsuccessful, Charles volunteered to give the dog a ride from Nashville to Atlanta, where his new family was ready to adopt him. Charles said he sat quietly on the back seat of the plane throughout the flight and promptly gave Charles’ wife a big lick thank you kiss as they approached Atlanta, where his new owners anxiously awaited his arrival. Another grateful passenger!
After Hurricane Katrina, numerous Gainesville churches donated supplies. Seven local pilots removed their back seats, loaded up the supplies and flew in formation to McComb, Mississippi, where aid workers lined up to sort and deliver the supplies to hurricane victims. In addition to “aid related” flight organizations, many local pilots belong to the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
One of their goals is to introduce first time fliers to world of aviation. Through a program called Young Eagles, members of the EEA based out of Gainesville have thrilled hundreds of first time fliers. Their chapter members range from professional pilots to students to men and women who have a passion for aviation. You don’t have to be a pilot or own a plane to be a member – only an enthusiast.
These pilots use their own time, planes and fuel funds to help others. Their enthusiasm for flying inspires future pilots, Gainesville is in good hands with the next generation of young pilots.
At Gainesville Magazine, we applaud and are honored to recognize their Good Works!
Send us your stories of local people doing Good Works for consideration of inclusion in an upcoming issue! Email stories and images to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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