AFC utlizes Moritz Memorial Airport

Since recent improvements at  Moritz Memorial Airport, 1520 West 8th street in Beloit, healthcare programs including Angel Flight Central have utilized the newly lengthened 4200 feet and widened 75 feet runway. The airport project has not only brought in revenue to the area through construction but the five percent share upgrades by the City of Beloit are changing lives in several ways.

Keith Houghton of Tipton sees how benefits to the healthcare system are being utilized at the local airport. He is a retired airline pilot who flew for 33 years while commuting from his home town with most of his flights departing from St. Louis, Mo. He also flew for Ozark, Trans World Airlines and American Airlines. 

Houghton still covers for some corporate aircraft today but his main goal is volunteering his time as an Angel Flight Central (AFC)  pilot. 

The AFC program is a volunteer non-profit organization whose mission it is to “Serve people in need by arranging charitable flights for health care or other humanitarian purposes.”

Today, AFC volunteers and supporters throughout the Midwest have made possible over 20,000 flights “free of charge” covering over eight million miles. They are helping thousands of families access specialized health care, special needs camps, and other destinations for disaster response efforts and compassionate reasons.

Kansas City is the local dispatch for the central location of the United States.

The AFC pilots are certified individuals that volunteer all of their time and services including fuel. They receive emails every day with a lists of flights that are available to choose from. The pilots are not aware of each patients situation but patients have to be recommended by medial doctors for the AFC program. The pilots are also, not guaranteed that an event will take place as scheduled.  

"I can contribute some professional skills," said Houghton. "Majority of the flights are to help people get to specific hospitals for needed treatments. I am happy to help."

Just last week, Houghton took part in a scheduled AFC transfer in B Beloit.

The flight had originally been scheduled to land in Lincoln, Neb. but was detoured to Beloit for a couple of reasons. Landing in a metropolitan area is much more difficult to maneuver around in and the small town airport fuel is significantly cheaper because they do not have the larger sales tax. 

On this particular AFC flight a Simolean woman was being transported from Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minn., to Garden City, Kan. as her destination. 

A relay system is used so pilots can share the expense and this also lets the patients take breaks in between flights. 

Dr. Eberle was the volunteer pilot coming from Rockford, Ill

Eberle, 74, is a practicing anesthesiologist that works in obstetrics. He flew his Wichita manufactured, pressurized Beechcraft Baron plane to the Mayo Clinic, not knowing of the patients situation or if the event would continue as scheduled. 

"I love to fly," said Eberle. "And what an even better reason to fly, but by helping someone get to where they need to be."

Eberle also volunteers for Life Line, an air ambulance transport program. He has been volunteering for medical flights since 1985 and is a member of the Flying Physicians Association. 

"I think Beloit has a very nice facility here," said Eberle. "It is a very nice runway."

Joining Eberle was an Irish medical student who happened to be in the United States and wanted to assist on the transfer. 

Laura Martin, 23,  was visiting a friend in Hutchinson and decided she wanted to visit the Mayo Clinic. She had traveled in the Middle East and had knowledge of the Simolean culture and was able to assist with the language barrier. 

Martin is studying to be a medical doctor. She started with a pharmacy degree prior to taking the five year doctor program in the United Kingdom.

"The flight was very smooth," said Martin. "The AFC program is brilliant. A very real service for people getting to the hospitals they need to be in. I am very appreciative to have been a part of this flight."

This was a first time flight in a small plane for the Simolean woman. She expressed her appreciation for the AFC program before boarding Houghton's Cesna 182  plane.   

Angel Flight Central is in the heart of the mid-west and collaborates from coast-to-coast, giving hope wings every day through their transfer flight program. 

Moritz Memorial Airport is one of the nicest airports in North Central Kansas and the most accessible which allows these programs to run.

With the larger runway, medical planes are able to utilize the facilities. Plans are in place for precision approach path indicator (PAPI) lighting which will aid in night time and primarily bad weather landing. The PAPI lights provide guidance information to help pilots acquire and maintain the correct approach to an airport.  

"The cost of the airport upgrades in Beloit was a minimal cost compared to the lives it has been able to change in the way of healthcare," said Beloit airport manager Travis Lattin. 

Other healthcare services are looking at utilizing the newly upgraded airport in the near future. Surrounding towns will be able to use these services as well. 

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