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Old 05-21-2016, 07:06 PM
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Private pilots who will fly someone to a medical appointment


I'm hoping someone here can point me in the right direction or give me some advice.

I have a friend, mid-60s, who has multiple health problems that have left him very frail. He is considering going to Johns Hopkins where there is a program that deals with one of his medical issues. He lives in Texas.

Given the ordeal that flying has become (even for able-bodied people), he doesn't think he has the stamina to make the trip on a commercial flight from a regular crowded airport. I've heard of people (especially children) being flown privately under such conditions. I'm not talking about for free; OTOH, he doesn't have the resources to charter a flight all to himself. Are there pilots who do this sort of flying?

He walks with crutches, but for long treks through airports, he would need a wheelchair.

Can anyone give me some ideas, tips, advice?

If it turns out a private option is not available, what support/assistance is available from commercial airlines for someone who is pretty seriously disabled? I don't have any experience in this area. Thx.
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:10 PM
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What you are looking for is an Air Taxi service. Do a Google search for
air taxi [your location or state]

Last edited by PastTense; 05-21-2016 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:18 PM
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Thanks! (Never heard of that.)
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:20 PM
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http://www.angelflight.com/locator/

Free medical flights. If your friend is a veteran, there are other options as well.
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Old 05-21-2016, 07:54 PM
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Holy cow! I love this board. I already filled out a form here:
http://www.aircarealliance.org/submi...for-assistance

Thanks so much!
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
... I've heard of people (especially children) being flown privately under such conditions. I'm not talking about for free; ...
Technically, it is illegal for a private pilot to accept compensation to fly a passenger somewhere.

They need to be a registered charter, air taxi, charity operation, or some other organized group, with the appropriate documents filed & approved. So you can't just offer to pay a friend who is a private pilot with their own airplane to do this -- they can get in lots of trouble, like getting their pilot's license pulled. You need to go to an already organized operation, like some of those already mentioned here.
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Old 05-22-2016, 01:40 AM
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He walks with crutches, but for long treks through airports, he would need a wheelchair..
How frail is he? If he can walk on his own for a few steps, that should be enough.

Wheelchair service is easily available at every airport I've ever seen, with an attendant to push you wherever you need to be.
And after the flight : When you land, there will be another wheelchair with attendant waiting for you at the door of the plane, literally only one or two steps away.
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Old 05-22-2016, 04:00 AM
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Technically, it is illegal for a private pilot to accept compensation to fly a passenger somewhere.

They need to be a registered charter, air taxi, charity operation, or some other organized group, with the appropriate documents filed & approved. So you can't just offer to pay a friend who is a private pilot with their own airplane to do this -- they can get in lots of trouble, like getting their pilot's license pulled. You need to go to an already organized operation, like some of those already mentioned here.
In Aus, a friend would be glad to fly you for free if you paid the bills. That's not compensation, and in Aus it's not illegal in any way.
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Old 05-22-2016, 04:40 AM
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In Aus, a friend would be glad to fly you for free if you paid the bills. That's not compensation, and in Aus it's not illegal in any way.
That's not true. The pilot and any passengers must share the cost equally between them at most.

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Originally Posted by CAR
(7A) An aircraft that carries persons on a flight, otherwise than in accordance with a fixed schedule between terminals, is employed in a private operation if:
(a) public notice of the flight has not been given by any form of public advertisement or announcement; and
(b) the number of persons on the flight, including the operating crew, does not exceed 6; and
(c) no payment is made for the services of the operating crew; and(
(d) the persons on the flight, including the operating crew, share equally in the costs of the flight; and
(e) no payment is required for a person on the flight other than a payment under paragraph (d).
https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2016C00417

Last edited by Richard Pearse; 05-22-2016 at 04:40 AM.
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Old 05-22-2016, 05:56 AM
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nm
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Old 05-22-2016, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
...
If it turns out a private option is not available, what support/assistance is available from commercial airlines for someone who is pretty seriously disabled? I don't have any experience in this area. Thx.
In the United States airlines are required to provide wheelchair assistance at no additional cost to the passenger. They are required to provide an escort with that wheelchair from the check in counter, through security, to the gate, and right onto the airplane (as needed). At connecting airports from one plane to another. And at the arrival airport it works in reverse, right through baggage claim.

If the airline believes that the passenger cannot fly without an escort but the traveler believes he can then the airline may require an escort on the plane but the airline may not charge the passenger for the seat for the escort.

The Air Carrier Access Act (pdf link) goes into some detail about the requirements. A summary is available at this page from the DOT.
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Old 05-22-2016, 09:20 AM
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Google Air Ambulance--there are several companies who take insurance. He will have some out of pocket, depending on his insurance policy. There are also many long distance ground ambulance services that offer ground transportation cross country.

And as mentioned, he can fly commercial and use the wheel chair option....but of course he'll still have to deal with security and all the other airport headaches. No security or waiting in lines for air ambulance since they fly out of small private airports.
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Old 05-22-2016, 09:23 AM
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I'm not getting the logic here. If he can walk with crutches then surely he can manage a flight in first / business class if a wheelchair to the gate is provided? Most small private planes are less comfortable than first / business class on commercial flights.
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Old 05-22-2016, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by bobkitty View Post
http://www.angelflight.com/locator/

Free medical flights. If your friend is a veteran, there are other options as well.
I was going to mention Angel Flight. If only I had a plane, one of the things I dearly want to do is fly for Angel Flight.
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Old 05-22-2016, 10:00 AM
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If you've never tried to fly with someone who had mobility issues, you may think that the 'accommodations' that the airlines are supposed to provide are a good thing. And they may be, in some cases, particularly for folks who are used to being in wheelchairs. However, for many airlines, and certainly (IME) for individuals who do not routinely use wheelchairs, they're spotty at best, and non-existent at worst. When we had to fly with my former husband, 70% of the time there was no one to meet us where they promised, and in several instances we missed our connecting flights because the airlines couldn't get it together enough to get the wheelchair where it needed to be (we didn't even need an escort, though it's nice).

If he goes via regular airline, I'd highly recommend him having his own escorts and looking into which airlines are best about accommodating mobility issues.
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Old 05-22-2016, 10:01 AM
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This may be a long shot, but you never know...

There's a charter company called JetSuite, and they have a program called "Suite Deals". When they are ferrying an aircraft empty they sell that flight very cheaply (for a jet, I think around $500). But you can only book it within 24 hours, and you never know when they'll have an empty flight from your area. But if you're located someplace where they often visit, maybe you could make it happen.
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Old 05-22-2016, 10:07 AM
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I'm not getting the logic here. If he can walk with crutches then surely he can manage a flight in first / business class if a wheelchair to the gate is provided? Most small private planes are less comfortable than first / business class on commercial flights.
I think the issue is the time involved. He is probably likely to get worn out very easily. With commercial flights you have long waits for security clearances, long waits when doing transfers, significantly longer time flying to the hub and back to the destination (direct flight would much shorter)...
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Old 05-22-2016, 11:24 AM
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Google Air Ambulance--there are several companies who take insurance. He will have some out of pocket, depending on his insurance policy. There are also many long distance ground ambulance services that offer ground transportation cross country.
I appreciate all the suggestions.

Quote:
And as mentioned, he can fly commercial and use the wheel chair option....but of course he'll still have to deal with security and all the other airport headaches. No security or waiting in lines for air ambulance since they fly out of small private airports.
He would definitely use the airport wheelchair option. It's more of a stamina issue. The most stressful part of flying these days happens before you get on the plane.

Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
I'm not getting the logic here. If he can walk with crutches then surely he can manage a flight in first / business class if a wheelchair to the gate is provided? Most small private planes are less comfortable than first / business class on commercial flights.
On Friday I brought him home from a week's stay in the hospital. The 30-ft walk from my car to his apartment door took about 5 minutes.

Reading the private plane sites, I am wondering if he can cram himself into a small plane. Not sure.

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Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
I think the issue is the time involved. He is probably likely to get worn out very easily. With commercial flights you have long waits for security clearances, long waits when doing transfers, significantly longer time flying to the hub and back to the destination (direct flight would much shorter)...
This is correct. The principal issue is pain. The inflammatory muscle disease he has means that he is in constant pain...as if all of your muscles and tissues are infused with acid. On top of it, he's very weak. The disease he has is degenerative. Thirty years ago, when flying meant arriving at the airport, a wait at the gate, and then boarding the plane, someone in his condition would have managed. Today, with the extremely long waits, even in a wheelchair... the process tests the stamina of someone in ordinary good health.

He probably could make the commercial flight if he's really committed to accessing this treatment. I'm researching ways of making the trip easier/faster/less stressful. It could be that a commercial flight will turn out to be the best way to go.

Does anyone have anecdotes re traveling with a physically fragile disabled person, or an extremely elderly, frail parent?

Last edited by ThelmaLou; 05-22-2016 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 05-22-2016, 11:51 AM
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Reading the private plane sites, I am wondering if he can cram himself into a small plane. Not sure.
Angel Flight pilots donate the use of their own planes. Some of them fly a Cherokee Six, Cessna 206, or Beechcraft B36. The nice thing about these airplanes is that they have wide passenger doors. Granted it's not as easy to get into and out of them as it is to be rolled down a jetway, but these six-seaters have plenty of room for a patient and a caregiver. Every so often I get photos from Angel Flight on my FB feed, and some pilots have larger airplanes with airstairs to get in, and some even have small jets. Remember that pilots donate their time and machine, so many of them tend to be able to afford larger aircraft. (Of course smaller aircraft are also used, but many flights involve children who are easier to board onto small plane.)

I'm not sure where in Texas this man lives, but it's a 1,200 mile flight from Dallas to Baltimore. (Coincidentally, that's the distance from Los Angeles to Bellingham, WA -- a trip I've made by car many times.) A small six-seat plane will cruise around 160 mph to 200 mph or so, so it would be a long trip. A small jet could make the trip in three or four hours. So it sounds like even with the airport hassles, it might be better to take a commercial flight -- unless you can get a ride on a corporate jet from a company that participates in such a program.
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:19 PM
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Keep in mind with Angelflight there will be no medical assistance on board. I heard one of the volunteer pilots speak once and they said due to liability issues, they cannot have a nurse or doctor flying with the patient. The pilot said he loved doing this and took flights every chance he could.
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:22 PM
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I heard one of the volunteer pilots speak once and they said due to liability issues, they cannot have a nurse or doctor flying with the patient.
I was not aware of that.
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
... So it sounds like even with the airport hassles, it might be better to take a commercial flight ...
You could very well be right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ivylass View Post
Keep in mind with Angelflight there will be no medical assistance on board. I heard one of the volunteer pilots speak once and they said due to liability issues, they cannot have a nurse or doctor flying with the patient. The pilot said he loved doing this and took flights every chance he could.
He wouldn't need any medical personnel to accompany him on board.

Last edited by ThelmaLou; 05-22-2016 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 05-22-2016, 01:36 PM
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Unless you can get him on a private jet, the trip is likely to be more arduous than an airline trip. Smaller planes, with piston engines are much slower and have much less ability to get around rough weather. And that's after the difficulty of getting on and off the plane, even if it is a jet. Even the most lavish general aviation facility is going to involve stairs.

I really think he's best off with you going for all the sympathy you can get from the airline, be nice to them and make them want to help him, and just leave extra time for the trip. Don't be shy about asking, just be nice.
  #24  
Old 05-22-2016, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
He would definitely use the airport wheelchair option. It's more of a stamina issue. The most stressful part of flying these days happens before you get on the plane.

[snip]

Does anyone have anecdotes re traveling with a physically fragile disabled person, or an extremely elderly, frail parent?
I once traveled back to Chicago from FL after shattering my tibia and fibula in several pieces in FL. It was...not fun.

How did we handle it? We hired a medical transport company on the FL end, with a wheelchair. The airline was very helpful in facilitating boarding outside the crush of other people, and in letting me have a bulkhead seat so I could keep my leg up (no easy task, especially the Monday after Thanksgiving with the throngs of people, and me in a cast up to my hip).

On the Chicago end, there was a special narrow wheelchair to get me up the aisle, and another medical transport company with a stretcher to take me from O'Hare straight to the ER (which already knew I was coming because we'd called ahead from FL).

Other than the shattered leg bones, though, I was young and basically healthy, and my options were basically either this horrendous trip home, or staying in FL for several months for surgery and recovery. I chose the former.

If you (or another healthy adult) is willing to accompany him, couldn't you just buy, or rent, a wheelchair for him so you're not at the mercy of airport wheelchair attendants? A nice, comfy one with padded seat cushions rather than the random airport ones? And I bet there are ways to have security screening facilitated under these circumstances.

In any case, good luck.
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Old 05-22-2016, 02:49 PM
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Unless you can get him on a private jet, the trip is likely to be more arduous than an airline trip. Smaller planes, with piston engines are much slower and have much less ability to get around rough weather. And that's after the difficulty of getting on and off the plane, even if it is a jet. Even the most lavish general aviation facility is going to involve stairs.

I really think he's best off with you going for all the sympathy you can get from the airline, be nice to them and make them want to help him, and just leave extra time for the trip. Don't be shy about asking, just be nice.
He can do stairs, just not quickly. But you're right about a small plane being less comfortable and taking longer, too.

He is a complete charmer and everyone who comes in contact with him wants to help him. Getting him to let them is another matter. He's ferociously independent. Getting the airline on his side won't be a problem.
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Old 05-22-2016, 05:59 PM
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Reading the private plane sites, I am wondering if he can cram himself into a small plane. Not sure.
Depends on the airplane and the person in question. I have a spouse with mobility issues so this isn't new to me. As a general rule, wider doors are better. Some people find low wing airplanes easier to get into and out of than high wing airplanes but really, you sort of have to try it out.

I find that small, private planes have more leg room than the airlines these days, and certainly less chance of someone reclining into your face.


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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
I'm not sure where in Texas this man lives, but it's a 1,200 mile flight from Dallas to Baltimore. (Coincidentally, that's the distance from Los Angeles to Bellingham, WA -- a trip I've made by car many times.) A small six-seat plane will cruise around 160 mph to 200 mph or so, so it would be a long trip. A small jet could make the trip in three or four hours. So it sounds like even with the airport hassles, it might be better to take a commercial flight -- unless you can get a ride on a corporate jet from a company that participates in such a program.
Johnny, you are failing to consider everything else involved with flying these days. Like security lines 2, 3 or even more hours long which would surely tax the stamina of the gentleman in question. Then there's the time involved getting to an airport hub. Depending on where he is, even with a slow private piston plane the total trip time, door to door, might well be less than if he flew commercial these days.

The private plane might take six hours, but if the airlines involve a 3 hour trip from curb through security to the gate, followed by a 2-3 hour flight... you're not saving much if any time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
Even the most lavish general aviation facility is going to involve stairs.
Really? ::: thinks over 10 years of flying small, private planes ::: Um, no. Plenty of airports entirely without stairs. In fact, I'd say more common than not. And "lavish" may not be ideal. A set up like my local airport where either someone can park then walk maybe 30 feet to a waiting airplane or, with permission, drive all the way to said airplane (someone will have to drive the car back to the parking lot for storage while you're gone), no stairs involved, but also no TSA security lines involved, might work out best.

If you go through airports that have commercial travel you might need a trip through security... or you might not... but if you stick to strictly general aviation airports you skip the whole TSA dog-and-pony show. And they might be closer to your start and destination points, too.

Inquire with AngelFlight. I've recommended them several times and only once was someone turned down - they were told that the medical situation was too complex and they should hire an air ambulance, which they did.
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Old 05-22-2016, 06:22 PM
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Thanks, Broomstick. Your comments are very welcome.
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Old 05-22-2016, 10:09 PM
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Don't forget about oxygen use if needed for the altitude he will be at in an unpressurized plane.

I was the donated pilot on an Aerostar 601 which was donated with a third guy paying for the fuel to get a lady up to Erie PA..

Have hauled several friends around for free.

I have been my own pilot to get me to medical help. Does that count?

I have had flights turn into a medical flight without warning. Nobody had to pay anybody for anything.
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Old 05-22-2016, 10:46 PM
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Keep in mind with Angelflight there will be no medical assistance on board. I heard one of the volunteer pilots speak once and they said due to liability issues, they cannot have a nurse or doctor flying with the patient. The pilot said he loved doing this and took flights every chance he could.
What if the patient's spouse or parent was a nurse or doctor? I'm assuming they have an exemption for that?
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Old 05-22-2016, 11:39 PM
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with Angelflight there will be no medical assistance on board. .. due to liability issues, they cannot have a nurse or doctor flying with the patient.
Huh? What's the logic here?
What liability issues?
The pilot and the airline are providing you a service..But that's all they do: provide transportation...They are not doctors, and they don't give you any professional medical care.
If you die during the flight, how can they be guilty of malpractice, or whatever?

(Analogy: If a pregnant woman feeling labor pains takes a taxi to the hospital, is the taxi driver responsible for her health? )

And what business is it of the pilot, whether a licensed doctor accompanies you? Surely the doctor is personally responsibile for any medical care he gives you during the flight, not the pilot. How can the pilot or airline have any liablity?
(again, my anaology: if the pregnant woman in the taxi is accompanied by a doctor, and she gives birth in the taxi while the doctor treats her, is the taxi driver liable for anything?

What am I not understanding?
  #31  
Old 05-23-2016, 12:42 AM
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If the flights don't pan out an air conditioned RV and team of 2 drivers might be of interest. He'd have to like road trips. It would be approx. 2 days there and 2 days back.

1400 - 1600 miles from TX to MD.

http://www.distancefromto.net/distan...yland-to-texas
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Old 05-23-2016, 04:52 PM
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Really? ::: thinks over 10 years of flying small, private planes ::: Um, no. Plenty of airports entirely without stairs. In fact, I'd say more common than not.
I was including the ones to get on the plane. No way to avoid that unless there's a jetway, or somebody carries you.
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Old 05-23-2016, 05:50 PM
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Er... most of the airplanes I've flown were like either getting into a car, or onto a motorcycle. No stairs required. I have a couple friends who used to do Angelflights in Cessna Cardinals, Skymasters, and Mooneys, none of which require a stairway or "jetway" to board or disembark.

There are pilots who need wheelchairs to get around on the ground. They seem to favor Piper Cherokees. From what I've seen, they pull themselves from their chair onto the wing, fold up the chair, pull it onto the wing next to them, pull themselves into the plane, then pull the wheelchair in after them. And if someone in a wheelchair can get him/herself in and out of the airplane on their own you definitely don't need stairs. (Obviously, their airplanes have hand controls, available for many models of Pipers and Cessnas.)

Some people/businesses do make their larger small planes available for such transport as well, business jets and such, but a lot of medical flights using small airplanes are using 4 and 6 seaters that are low to the ground when they're on their wheels.
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Old 05-23-2016, 06:31 PM
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Er... most of the airplanes I've flown were like either getting into a car, or onto a motorcycle. No stairs required. I have a couple friends who used to do Angelflights in Cessna Cardinals, Skymasters, and Mooneys, none of which require a stairway or "jetway" to board or disembark.
Cessnas have a step on the landing gear leg that you need to climb into the cockpit. (Or do as I do and stand in front of the leg and take one giant step in.) Cherokees have a step so you can climb up onto the wing, and then you have to step down into the cockpit. This is problematic for me since I've lost my left patellar tendon and getting in on the starboard side requires using the left leg. I can only assume a Mooney would be similar. Either way, you do need some agility to get into a small airplane. As I said, a Cherokee Six or a Stationair would be easier because of the rear passenger doors.
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Old 05-23-2016, 07:08 PM
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My friend walks with crutches and can manage stairs. In fact, he generally eschews the elevator to get to his second floor office. (Did I mention he was very independent?) He would only need a wheelchair to get through a humongous commercial airport.

I told him I was researching this, and he said he'd be fine with flying in a small plane.

Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions.
  #36  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:44 AM
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I just want to add that going from Texas to Baltimore by commercial airlines probably involves a layover. If you factor in the time wait times and the layover, there may be very little difference in the door-to-door times between commercial and private options.

If he goes commercial, he should have a companion, if possible--someone who can run get him a snack during a layover or hold his carry-on bag while he goes to the restroom. Maybe he can do those things on his own, but for a frail, easily fatigued person in pain, travel can be exhausting. And once he gets to Baltimore, he'll still need to get to John Hopkins and possibly a hotel.

Best of luck to your friend, ThelmaLou. He's lucky to have you.
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Old 09-15-2019, 03:24 AM
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Since this is a three year old zombie I'd be interested in how things turned out for ThelmaLou's friend.
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