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  • August 18, 2020 14:22 | Anonymous

    By Brendan Sneegas, Director of Operations & Development, Angel Flight Central

    Following 25 years of service and over 28,000 free flights for people in need of long-distance travel to medical care and treatment, the COVID-19 outbreak shook the mission of Angel Flight Central (AFC), a non-profit charitable aviation organization serving those in the Midwest, including North Dakota. The ability to safely fly people to and from medical care became too dangerous for pilots, as well as their passengers. Angel Flight Central was quickly forced to suspend passenger flights and re-evaluate its mission. 

    “We realized that the safest way forward in the short-term was to concentrate on cargo flights,” said Don Sumple, AFC’s CEO and Executive Director. Utilizing a partnership with a rural hospital organization, AFC was able to arrange flights carrying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to underserved rural hospitals across several states. However, as in every natural or national crisis, volunteer pilots have a great desire to assist. The PPE flights were not enough to satisfy the willingness of the AFC pilots. 

    It was around this time when Vitalant, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit community blood service providers, started facing struggles getting blood products to their intended destination. With three donation locations in North Dakota, Vitalant’s ability to transport donated blood and blood products to processing centers was being affected with all the changes in commercial aviation routes. Vitalant’s Community Outreach Ambassador Jennifer Bredahl, reached out to North Dakota Senator Tom Campbell to ask for help. He connected Vitalant with Mike Kempel of Dakota Refrigeration, who offered to use his private plane to help. However, with the continuous transportation needs, the North Dakota Civil Air Patrol recommended connecting with Angel Flight Central.

    Vitalant is internationally recognized for their expertise in blood collection testing, logistics, distribution, special services and research. In other words, Vitalant had a life-saving product supply of plasma needing delivery multiple days of the week to a processing center 570 nautical miles away in St. Louis, while AFC had compassionate volunteer pilots calling to ask to help. A perfect match. 

    Rachel Nelson, Vitalant’s Senior Hospital Services Manager, summarized the experience. “During these uncertain times of COVID-19, our products for our patients were greatly impacted. We had logistical struggles on a daily basis, until we partnered with Angel Flight Central. Their organized diligence to support the needs of the community was impeccable. Because of their support, we were able to get our blood and blood products where they needed to go, so we could continue our life-saving mission. We truly cannot thank them enough!”

    The partnership is now in its fourteenth week. Twenty-seven pilots have flown 37 flight legs a total of 10,500 nautical miles. Over 5,000 miles of trips are planned for the weeks ahead, and if more pilots could join in, additional locations could be added.  

    With new screening and safety protocols, AFC resumed flying passengers to medical care in June, but the passion and inspiration that has evolved from two non-profits combining efforts to change and save lives has only gained momentum, thanks to the great people at Fargo Jet Center.  

    If you are a pilot and wish to learn more about AFC’s minimum requirements, please visit To learn more about Vitalant, visit their website at Both organizations would also greatly appreciate any charitable contribution to continue their work into the future.

  • August 18, 2020 14:12 | Anonymous

    Scholarships Awarded: The North Dakota Business Aviation Association would like to congratulate Ayden Olsen and Jilian Quale on each receiving a $200 scholarship. Ironically, both students are currently attending Wachter Middle School in Bismarck, ND where Ayden is in the 8th grade and Jilian is in the 6th grade. Ayden has expressed an interest in becoming an aerospace engineer specializing in landing gear systems at Boeing, while Jilian is still exploring all military aviation career opportunities. Jilian and Adyen are each raising funds to attend the NASA Space Camp held in Huntsville, Alabama.

    Merger: NDBAA was founded in 1947 with the purpose to promote the interests of those that benefit from the use of aviation in North Dakota. NDBAA accomplishes this through safety, advocacy, and educational initiatives. As of May 2020, NDBAA has merged with the North Dakota Aviation Association.

  • August 18, 2020 13:54 | Anonymous

    By Daren Hall, Chairman

    North Dakota Aviation Associaton

    I moved to Fargo 30 years ago and have worked at the airport every day since. I grew up three blocks from the airport in Minot and would often drive to the far end just to look at the lights and watch airplanes. I can remember a few times I would spot a North Central Airlines DC-9.

     Times have changed, and so have airplanes and airports. Some aircraft very much so, as they do not even have pilots anymore. As I write, I’m watching an MQ-9 in the pattern in Fargo. However, one thing in aviation has not changed: the wonder of flight. It is the excitement one gets when you are up close; the smell, the sounds, the sights that trigger a small dose of adrenaline to run through your body.

    Ironically, not once in the past 30 years of working at the airport, had I gone out just to watch airplanes. I realized this needed to change. A week ago, I saw a couple C-130’s doing some pattern work and thought, “Let’s go check it out.” After a quick bike ride to the airport with my son, Tommy, I soon re-experienced the excitement of aviation. It is a feeling like no other, when you are at the end of a runway and an aircraft flies directly overhead. I have lived and worked in the world of aviation my whole life and somehow along the way I missed something so simple, accessible, and inspiring. 

    With minimal travel and a slower-paced life over the past few months, the extra time has helped me find a better perspective in making the most of the time I do have. It has allowed me to rediscover the wonder of flight. 

    Here is my challenge for you: create time to be a kid again, rediscover your passion for aviation, and share it with other people. Visit your local airport. Go flying! And don’t forget to bring a friend.

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