Pilot Day 2018: Volunteer Pilots Earn High Honors

Pilot Day 2018

Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic held their Second Annual Pilot Appreciation Day on May 5, 2018, at Signature Flight Support. The official title for the event is a bit of a mouthful. So for short – let’s call it Pilot Day 2018.

The Right Atmosphere

From inside the hangar at Signature Flight Support, guests were treated to an amazing view – blue skies, the ATC tower standing tall, and the tarmac sparkling in the sun. A light spring breeze rushed through the open doors and skipped to the high ceiling, cooling off the space. Every now and then, planes would take off from the runway.

The inside of the hangar was decorated in a patriotic color scheme. Round tables were covered with blue or red cloths. Matching hot-air-balloon centerpieces rested on the tables. Metallic star balloons secured to the table shone in crimson, light silver, and brilliant blue. A white backdrop with the Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic Logo tiled on it stood against a wall.

Get To Work…

The airport didn’t stop, and neither did staff and volunteers from Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic. Before 9 A.M., they were already hard at work.

Our Transportation Coordinator, MJ Sablan, found stick-on nametags for each guest. Felycia Jordan, our Accounting Specialist, along with her husband Troy, gave out event tees. Dana Craft Robbins, our Development Specialist, stood at the raffle table with a smile.

The morning went on, and more guests came in. Stephanie Singer, our Communications Specialist, took live video of board members, pilots, and staff members for social media with the hashtag #WhyIGive. Everyone pitched in to help.

… And Let The Event Begin!

A famed speaker, Doug Cox, was the Master of Ceremonies. He announced that volunteer pilots could go to a safety training session for credit; many of them took up the offer. In the meantime, an aviation safety music video played. The song, aptly titled “You Can Always Turn Around,” played alongside video clips of how NOT to land a plane.

Doug Cox then welcomed everyone to Pilot Day 2018. Color Guard from the U.S. Marine Corps entered, putting the crowd in a respectful silence. After they had they marched out, the National Anthem played, along with the Pledge of Allegiance.

A news segment from WAVY-TV 10 came on-screen. A call-for-pilots video followed, starring the famed aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff. The slideshow changed tone to a remembrance of two volunteer pilots, JJ Quinn and Paul Gardella. “They have earned their angel wings,” Doug Cox said.

A gourmet lunch followed. Deli sandwiches, wraps, fruit trays, and raw veggies were arranged on what had been the breakfast table. Chips, cookies, and cupcakes were at the end. Everyone got a plate and enjoyed lunch.

Awards Ceremony

Now came the part everyone was waiting for at Pilot Day 2018: the awards ceremony! While some pilots were unable to attend, they were still recognized. The winners are…

  • RT Linsenbach (Pennsylvania)
  • Charlie Poll (Ohio)
  • Cleve Benedict (West Virginia
  • Kelly Carnighan (Kentucky)
  • Dr. Steve Minton (Washington, D.C.)
  • Bob Anderson (Tennessee)
  • Dick Lawrence (Michigan
  • Dr. Peter Glassman (Maryland)
  • Kenny Hardin (North Carolina)
  • John Billings and Nevin Showman (Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic and Virginia)

A Big Surprise

After the awards ceremony, John Billings was asked to stay at the front. A video played about John’s role in WWII. It highlighted Operation Greenup, putting spies and special forces behind enemy lines. Admiral Brian Losey, USN (Retired), representing the OSS society, spoke about John’s exemplary service in the OSS.

Brigadier General Scott Pleus, USAF also spoke. He had a special Air Force coin and letter from the United States Air Force Chief of Staff, General David L. Goldfein, USAF. Brigadier General Pleus stated, “Getting a coin from the Chief of Staff – is a pretty big deal.” He congratulated John, to much applause.

Then came the real surprise! After the war, the Army Air Corps became the U.S. Air Force. John’s commanding officer gave him two choices: get the blue uniform or retire. John couldn’t afford the blue uniform, so he had to retire. With a flourish, our Director of Operations Stephanie Bollmann revealed the blue uniform! Robb Alpaugh, the Executive Director for Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, told of the difficulties he had in securing the uniform. “You could qualify for the CIA,” joked John. Robb joked back: “How about the OSS?” The audience chuckled at the brief comedy.

The last surprise was a letter from Frank Borman, an Apollo 8 astronaut and Eastern Airlines pilot. Needless to say, John was over the moon!

The crowd delivered a standing ovation, and John returned to his seat.

Closing Time

The drawing took place after the awards and surprises. After guests found out the winning tickets and received their prizes, Pilot Day 2018 came to a close.

Thank You!

So many people helped to make Pilot Day 2018 a success. We couldn’t possibly list them all in this article, but know that you are appreciated. To all who support our mission… THANK YOU!

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