Volunteer pilots are helping fly critical supplies to hospitals in remote areas

Posted at 2:19 PM, Apr 13, 2020

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — A group of volunteer pilots is flying much needed medical supplies to rural communities across Colorado to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Angel Flight West is a nonprofit organization that normally arranges free flights to people who need to travel long distances for non-emergency medical appointments or procedures.

The pilots are volunteers who often help people in rural or remote areas reach medical care they might not otherwise have access to. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic came to Colorado, the majority of those medical flights had to stop.

“Many of the normal missions we would fly have evaporated because some of our patients would be immune deficient and they would be in close proximity with the pilot or other people,” said Phil Rosnik, the chief metro pilot for Angel Flight West.

Still wanting to help those in need, the group reached out to an emergency task force for rural hospitals set up by the Colorado Hospital Association to see if their services could be used in a different way.

The volunteer pilots are now helping fly much needed medical supplies to rural hospitals.

“The smaller communities sometimes have the least resources to deal with something of this nature, so the supplies are critical,” Rosnik said. “We can get into the smallest airports, take a patient to and from treatment, take supplies in or out.”

The planes are being packed with everything from surgical gowns, masks, hand sanitizer and other personal protection equipment (PPE) and taken to hospitals that are running low on supplies.

“It’s a little bit odd, you know. We get out of the aircraft, and we can’t get a mask because they’re in short supply, so I wear my ski equipment and I look like a little bit like a bandito when I get out of the aircraft,” Rosnik said.

In one recent case, the group even flew a ventilator to a hospital in Rangley that needed it for a patient. They also flew east from the Denver metro area to Limon and Holyoke with masks and some face shields to help.

The hospitals receiving the supplies have been very grateful; Rosnik remembers a recent flight where he was met on the airstrip by the CEO of the hospital. The two then loaded the equipment in the CEO’s pickup truck and he drove it back to the hospital.

The group is receiving help from Signature Flight Support in the form of an airport hangar and flying out of the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. Medical students from the Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado are also providing logistical support and collecting equipment for the hospitals.

For Rosnick and the other volunteer pilots, the flights are their chance to make a difference in the pandemic.

“We step up because we like to fly, and we want to help. There’s nothing that feels better than being useful in a time of crisis and when you’re helping other people, it’s just a great feeling,” Rosnik said.

This story was originally published by Meghan Lopez at KMGH.