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Sun, May 02, 2004

LifeLine Pilots Receives National Honor

Award given for volunteer flights following 9/11

LifeLine Pilots was honored recently to accept the Public Benefit Flying Team Award from the National Aeronautic Association and The Air Care Alliance for volunteer-provided "Lifeguard" flight services following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Though virtually all flights in the US were grounded on September 13, 2001, the FAA granted permission and a special beacon code that allowed pilots Lyle Clapper, Norbert Ptaszek, brothers Ward and David Montgomery, and husband and wife team Mark and Donna Turek to transport vital skin tissue and blood platelets for the American Red Cross and LifeSource. With virtually no lead time and intense time constraints to keep the skin tissue viable, mission coordinators, Mary Heath and Julie Puckett, worked through the night to organize the multi-leg skin transport flights from St. Paul, MN to Peoria to the Red Cross Skin Tissue Processing center in Costa Mesa, CA. The blood platelet transport flight to Bethesda's Military Hospital required approval from the Deputy Mayor of Maryland and an armed guard escort to the locked down hospital.

LifeLine Pilots executive director Keith Laken received the award on Monday April 26 in a ceremony at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Museum in Washington, D.C.

"Our pilots are routinely asked to fly at a moment's notice, though nothing felt routine about the September 13th flights -- other than the extraordinary commitment of our volunteer pilots," Laken said upon his return from the nation's capital. "Our abiding mission is to provide financially distressed people with free transportation for compelling medical and humanitarian needs. The flights of September 13th took our mission to a higher level -- the country was in shock, yet almost instantly people rallied to find ways to help the victims. Our pilots and our staff are honored to have done their part."

"It was an interesting time," said Chicagoan Mark Turek, who piloted the Bethesda-bound flight with his wife Donna. "People needed family togetherness and our flight allowed us to have that and help others at the same time."



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