Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Doing Good With General Aviation

Utilize your aeronautical gifts through volunteer organizations that make the world a better place

LIGA (The Flying Doctors Of Mercy)

LIGA, meaning "league" in Spanish, was conceived in 1934 by Dr. Iner Sheld Ritchie of Loma Linda as he traveled through Sonora by train to Mexico City to treat then president of Mexico, Abelardo Rodriguez. Ritchie was saddened by the lack of healthcare available for the Yaqui Indians. He made a promise to return the next year to help those who couldn't financially afford his services.

Today, that promise has grown to a roster of some 1,000 physicians, dentists, nurses, optometrists, audiologists, pharmacists, chiropractors, assistants, technicians and, of course, volunteer pilots.

On the first Friday of each month from October through June, volunteer pilots from America in their own private aircraft fly dozens of dentists, audiologists, physicians, surgeons, anesthetists and nurses to El Fuerte in the State of Sinaloa, Mexico. An area that's only 700 nm south of Los Angeles, so impoverished that without LIGA, the indigenous people living there would never receive the benefits of modern medical equipment or medical professionals.

Requirements: To be a pilot in command with LIGA, you'll be required to have a minimum of 400 hours in your logbook if you have an IFR rating or a minimum of 600 hours if you're a VFR-only pilot.

Rewards: The primary reward is watching lives transformed as financially challenged patients receive medical care that they would not have received if you, as a LIGA pilot, had not volunteered your time and skills. After that, the medical professionals/passengers each contribute to their own pilot/aircraft owner to help reimburse the pilot for his or her fuel expenses. That contribution will be between $200 and $260, depending on where the flight originated.

Civil Air Patrol (U.S. Air Force Auxiliary)

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has three primary missions: aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services. Thousands of young people have been introduced to aviation through CAP's cadet 16-step program. It includes aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and character development. Cadets compete for academic scholarships to further their studies in fields such as engineering, science, aircraft mechanics and aerospace medicine.

Most CAP flight missions are focused on Search and Rescue, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Service, Air Force Support and Counter Drug missions. With 550 aircraft in their fleet, the CAP is one of the largest single-engine air forces in the world. They fly over 112,000 hours annually and conduct 90% of the in-land search-and-rescue operations tasked by the USAF rescue coordination center. In the process, they save an average of 80 lives per year.

Requirements: To fly rescue missions as PIC, you're required to have 175 hours of PIC time with a minimum of 50 hours cross-country time. Additionally, you'll be required to pass a written examine and flight checkrides.

Rewards: Most of us make the mistake of thinking that the Civil Air Patrol are those kids you see marching in formation at airports across the country. They're much more than that. By flying for the CAP, you'll get to participate in real Air Force missions and log free flight time in their aircraft while doing so. More than that, you receive the satisfaction of being part of the team that finds a lost camper or downed airman. When the police nail the drug smugglers, you walk away with the knowledge that the information you obtained by reporting suspicious activities helped make America stronger. Those cadets who earn Cadet Officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (Airman First Class) rather than an E1 (Airman Basic).

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

Of the 30,000 members of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, all of whom are "always ready," more than 250 are pilots volunteering with their own personal aircraft. Volunteer Coast Guard pilots are needed 365 days a year. Their missions cover search and rescue; environmental protection; aids-to-navigation (ATON) flights, meaning looking for buoys and making sure they're in the right place; ice patrols and Coast Guard logistics (i.e., flying parts and equipment for aircraft, or even helicopter crews, back and forth between bases before those pilots can "duty time" out ).


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