Air Care Alliance

Public benefit flying award presentation
(L-R) Rol Murrow of ACA, Gene Schmidt-Bahamas Habitat Volunteer Pilot and Jonathan Gaffney of NAA as Schmidt receives the 2010 Distinguished Volunteer Pilot Award

“The voice of public benefit flying.”

The Air Care Alliance  (ACA) is now 21 years old, but you’d be hard pressed to find another 21-year-old with such an impact on so many lives. Like other organizations that truly fulfill their missions, ACA was the product of visionaries; people who understood that charitable aviation groups would be more effective if they became allies. So, in 1990, at the invitation of Bill Worden of Angel Flight, Rol Murrow of Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, and  Patricia Weil Coats, VP of AOPA’s Communications Department, more than 100 people  from 25 volunteer groups met at AOPA  and  ACA was born.

ACA Chairman Rol Murrow says, “The Air Care Alliance was formed to provide a way for charitable aviation groups to work better together, to provide a central clearinghouse where patients, communities, or volunteers could find all the various groups and learn about them, and to act as the voice of public benefit flying, working for appropriate regulatory treatment and better understanding of it by the public and our elected officials.”

When someone with a need visits ACA’s website they find a treasure trove of contact information on the more than 65 groups listed there, many of them providing transport for medical needs, and with the listings arranged by geographic service areas. But ACA’s reach doesn’t end with serving as a clearinghouse of information on volunteers who provide patient transport. They help people get in touch with organizations that deliver critically-needed supplies during natural disasters, or rescue animals by transporting them to no-kill shelters. Their listings also include groups who serve environmental causes, fly search and rescue missions and introduce children to aviation.

Though their primary goal is to connect those in need with those who serve, Murrow knows that there is another important mission,  and that’s “telling the public about the wonderful work of all the groups and their members.” With general  aviation often under attack from groups and individuals who can’t see beyond stereotypes, ACA knows that getting the word out on the benefits of thousands of charitable flights every year is a powerful  and effective tool in counteracting misinformation.

When asked if one story stands out for him, Murrow says that their are too many to pick a single example, and that’s the  most diplomatic answer  in tribute to the thousands of pilots who have donated hundreds of thousands of hours over the years. Even so, each year ACA works with the National Aeronautical Association to honor selected pilots and organizations at the National Public Benefit Flying “Above and Beyond” award ceremony in  the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Though bringing together those who  use aviation to serve with those who need understandably draws the greatest attention, ACA is busy behind the scenes working to assure that charitable aviation organizations will have their voices heard by those who both create and enforce regulations on private flying in the United States. And they do all of this with volunteers.

For Rol Murrow and the others who give of their time to run ACA, the greatest gift is pilots who only want to share their skills and time, “The big story that is so incredible is that so many pilots are willing to drop everything, and to get their plane out and fly hundreds of miles to help a complete stranger get medical care, or to find a lost soul, or to take supplies to a community that has been devastated. Thousands of incredible and heart warming stories taken together comprise this big story of public benefit flying!”

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