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Angel Flight NE Makes the Impossible - Easy Riding Possible through the power of Aviation

09/15/2022 12:11PM ● By Rachel Baiman

When you or your loved one is diagnosed with a severe illness, it can be utterly terrifying. There are so many factors and complications to think through, not the least of which is how you can access the best possible care. 501(C)3 Non-Profit Angel Flight NE’s (AFNE) mission is to alleviate the stress associated with a healthcare journey and let you focus on what is important—getting well! Angel Flight provides free public and private flight options for folks in need of specialized medical care. Rather than spending money on gas and commercial air transportation, coupled with weeks or even months away from loved ones at home, work, and other everyday activities, AFNE enables patients to fly for free to medical appointments quickly and efficiently, and return home as soon as possible to resume everyday life. 

 Two-year old Sawyer gives a thumbs up before his flight from Vermont to Boston Children's Hospital.

 Vermont native and AFNE Volunteer Pilot Kirk hugs a patient’s medical support dog Lava while waiting to take off from Logan Airport in Boston. 

For those patients located in rural areas, AFNE provides the ability to travel to medical facilities for advanced and specialized treatments which may not be locally available. This truly can mean the difference between life or death for many patients.

South Burlington residents Candy and Tim Kavanaugh have experienced firsthand the difference that AFNE can make in someone’s life. “I truly feel Tim is still with us because of our team at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) and Angel Flight,” says Candy. “Tim has been living with cancer for six years. I’ve been by his side for every treatment and surgery. A 6+ hour drive one way for treatment in New York City and the complexities of travel after extensive surgery would have made it impossible to travel to MSK. With Angel Flight, we felt wrapped in care from the best hands possible, and delivered to the best team of professionals at one of the top cancer centers in the world. We’ve been given a tremendous blessing and gift by having Angel Flight as part of our team.”




Addi & her dad Ian from Vermont, AFNE Volunteer Pilot Bill M., with co-pilot Rocky, has flown 300+ missions since joining the nonprofit in 1996. AFNE’s amazing volunteer pilots donate their talents, time, fuel, and planes to provide patients with hope and joy. 

Founded in 1996 by Larry Camerlin, AFNE has now coordinated over 104,000 free flights for patients, flown over 15 million miles, and has accessed over 750 medical facilities. Larry began his career in 1965 with the intent to spend his life as a Roman Catholic Franciscan Friar focused on the mission of healthcare and healing. His plans changed when he met his wife Ruth, who was a nurse at a Maryland hospital Larry was visiting. Larry and his family relocated to the Boston area, and he founded an ambulance business which he eventually sold. Not knowing what was next after his early retirement, he was inspired by the concept of utilizing general aviation talents and resources to transport medical patients in need. His idea grew into AFNE, a vital nonprofit organization that combined his business and medical skills with his mission to provide the best health care to everyone.

 For 3 year old Vermont resident Lilith, who is battling brain cancer, her Angel Flights are fun and allows her to soar above the clouds with her stuffed bear. 

AFNE’s operation depends on a vast network of generous, compassionate, and dedicated volunteer pilots who donate their time, planes, and fuel for these life-changing missions. General aviation pilots work with AFNE’s mission coordination and pilot resource management team to ensure they have the proper credentials and logged hours of flying to qualify, which are some of the highest qualifications in the country for an air charity organization. AFNE also has outstanding and generous commercial airline partners such as JetBlue and Cape Air, which donate unlimited seats on their aircraft for AFNE patients. Additionally, the organization works with volunteer drivers, called “Earth Angels” who provide free ground transportation for patients to travel to and from the medical facilities and airports and back to their homes. AFNE makes the process of getting treatment seamless and free, so that patients can focus on the important part: their health and healing journey. “We have had 64 missions with AFNE,” explains Candy, “We have met many different pilots who have donated their time and planes. The level of care is monumental.”

 Volunteer Pilot Ken B. ( far right) participated in a late afternoon flight to return a Vermont patient and her companions after several days of medical treatment in NY.

 Addi boards her 74th Angel Flight from Burlington, VT with her mom, Tammy, for medical treatment in Boston. 

Barbara Sica, who has been committed to AFNE’s mission for over 20 years, explains how the process worked for one client who was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer. “He needed to travel to Pennsylvania to access a very specialized treatment,” she explains. “He didn’t have the financial or practical resources in place to get there quickly and for multiple treatments. So we had an Earth Angel pick him up at our office in North Andover, MA, and bring him to Boston Logan to catch a flight on JetBlue. He was picked up from the airport in Pennsylvania by another Earth Angel and brought straight to the hospital. If he hadn’t had access to this free air and ground transportation, he probably would have lost his eye.” Barbara further explained, “When folks reach out to AFNE, they can expect to be treated with the utmost compassion. We embrace each patient and their loved ones as part of our family and provide them the love and care they need during a scary time of their life.”

Despite having many volunteers, Angel Flight NE must raise over $1 million annually to keep the operation going and that cost is rising each year. In addition to general operational costs, AFNE employs a team of full-time staff including three full-time mission coordinators, who work tirelessly around the clock to match volunteers both in the air and on the ground with patients. To fund the organization’s mission, AFNE relies on sponsorships from long-term corporate partners such as Hasbro Toys, M&T Bank, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and others, coupled with vigorous fundraising with events and appeals to individual donors. 

 Patient Tim has traveled on more than 100 Angel Flight missions from VT to Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC for treatment of Colon Cancer. 

With the help of sponsors, volunteers, and corporate partners to keep the mission afloat, AFNE has stepped in to help when nobody else could, and their mission has, at vital times, expanded to other humanitarian causes. In the aftermath of 9/11, when commercial flights were grounded, AFNE coordinated and flew hundreds of dog booties to NYC so that rescue dogs could have their paws protected from the heat while searching the rubble. And at the height of the COVID pandemic, when supply chains were cut off, AFNE flew food and other everyday supplies to indigenous communities throughout the Northeast that were lacking necessities.

Whether it is a health crisis, or a humanitarian crisis and transportation seems impossible, the power of aviation and the dedication of the aviation community truly becomes apparent. Angel Flight Northeast likes to use the saying “When the road to a cure is a runway, we step in to make the impossible possible!” 


Angel Flight NE


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