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Pilot combines love of flying, desire to help others in changing lives
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) —
In the middle of the night, the call comes that an organ is available for transplant. A child needs to get to burn treatments hundreds of miles away. These are the patients who catch a ride on the wings of the Angels in our Midst, like pilot Kilton Kingsman.
"I wanted a mission to my flying. So, I fly because I love it," he said.
Kilton Kingsman loves the missions he flies for Angel Flight. Formerly active duty, he's now a Navy reservist flight instructor at NAS Pensacola who volunteers his skills with the nonprofit organization.
Angel Flight pilots donate their time, aircraft and resources to transport patients to medical care. From organ transplant surgeries to ongoing critical treatment.
Kingsman said whatever the call, they answer.
"A lot of what we do in this area is cancer treatments. And so, cancer treatment facilities are in Tampa, Florida and also in Houston. And so, picking passengers up as far away as Birmingham and taking them to Houston," he explained.
Their service is a heaven sent gift to patients like Robert Greathouse. The doting grandfather is a cancer patient who required a bone marrow transplant. That would have to be done in Tampa; a long way from home.
"Five hundred miles; right at 500 miles from here," he said.
Angel Flight got him to where he needed to be for his lifesaving care. They've also been there for the ongoing followup treatments.
Greathouse said he couldn't have made it without them.
"After I get done with my treatment, I'm done for a couple days. I can't, I can't, I don't even have the energy to do anything. So making the drive down there... I wouldn't be able to make that trip," he said.
Outside of the physical toll, the cost of gas or airline tickets on top of hotel stays would be a tremendous financial hardship for most families. Kilton Kingsman gladly gives his time, a friend donates the use of his plane and he's able to get fuel for a discount - Angel Flight services are free.
"I just really enjoy the missions and getting to know people," he said.
Their conversations are part of the therapy for Greathouse.
"We're talking the whole time, conversing. He gets my mind off what I've been going through, what I've got coming up." Kilton treasure the time with his young transports to. "The youngest child I think I transported was from Destin up to a burn center in Georgia. And it was such a thrill to see him love flying and smile like that."
In his three years with Angel Flight, Kilton has transported about 50 different patients; some multiple times. Last year he made 26 flights and that dedication earned him the honor or being named Southeast Angel Flight pilot of the year.
Sometimes those trips are quick turnarounds like when Greathouse needed a lift back home.
"Even though he flew me the day before, the next day he would come all the way down to Tampa and pick me up to bring me back home," he said.
That gratitude is part of what keeps Kingsman on his missions of mercy for Angel.
"It's just the satisfaction of a day well spent," he explained. "That your time that day has mattered to help somebody else"
If you'd like to join or support Angel Flight, please visit their website at AngelflightSE.org.
Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.