Pilots Sarah Fehr and Douglas Noblet stand near the plane they used to take a woman from Nelson to Kelowna for a medical appointment. The round trip Thursday was the first offered out of Nelson’s airport by Angel Flight East Kootenay. Photo: Tyler Harper

Pilots Sarah Fehr and Douglas Noblet stand near the plane they used to take a woman from Nelson to Kelowna for a medical appointment. The round trip Thursday was the first offered out of Nelson’s airport by Angel Flight East Kootenay. Photo: Tyler Harper

Two wings and no prayers required: Angel Flight East Kootenay begins trips from Nelson

Charity offers free flights from Nelson to Kelowna for passengers with medical needs

It was an August weekend evening when Brent Bidston’s phone rang.

A baby had been born in Cranbrook, and health complications meant he needed to be immediately flown to a Kelowna hospital. But the air ambulance was small, with just space for the mother.

The father, who would have to stay behind, called Bidston.

Bidston, a retired pilot, former paramedic and founder of Angel Flight East Kootenay, offered to help. The next morning Bidston, his partner Todd Weselake and the father touched down in Kelowna.

“We actually had him at his baby’s bedside before his wife,” said Bidston. “She was still in Cranbrook waiting for her own air ambulance.”

Angel Flight East Kootenay, which offers free non-emergency flights to Kelowna for people in need of medical transport, began operating in April 2019. The charity relies on volunteer pilots and their planes while using donations to cover fuel costs.

Previously Angel Flight had only flown out of Cranbrook, but earlier this month had its first flight from Creston. On Thursday, the team started offering service out of Nelson to Kelowna.

Pilots Douglas Noblet and Sarah Fehr were in the cockpit for Thursday’s flight. Noblet, 28, has been flying since he was 15, and volunteering with Nelson Search and Rescue for nearly a decade.

Flying is its own reward for Noblet, but he was happy to help a Nelson woman who needed to be in Kelowna for only a 30-minute appointment.

“If it gives free flights for patients who need to go, they love it, it’s great for them,” said Noblet.

Bidston said some of his passengers are hustled off to hospital by air and then have no idea how to return home once discharged.

“Just yesterday we brought a gentleman back from Kelowna who had been taken by air ambulance, and he didn’t even have his cell phone with him.”

But not just anyone can call up Angel Flight for a ride.

Passengers need a doctor’s approval to fly in an unpressurized plane and proof of a medical appointment. Anyone with a communicable disease can’t fly, and there’s no medical assistance available in the air.

Travellers also have to be able to walk on their own power to the plane — there’s no room for wheelchairs in small Cessna 182s, after all.

Pilots also need their own plane and extensive experience to volunteer. Angel Flight requires a private pilot licence and 500 hours in the air.

Bidston said he’s already received interest in volunteering from Nelson pilots. Noblet’s flight Thursday was Angel Flight’s 50th since it began operating, and he expects plenty more to come.

Anyone interested in using Angel Flight’s services, making a donation or volunteering to be a pilot can find out more at angelflightek.ca.

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Airport

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Members of the Nelson Nordic Ski Club show off their new snowcat. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Nordic Club celebrates new snowcat

A community fundraising effort led to the purchase

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

The Skinny Genes Foundation is raising awareness and funds for a rare genetic disorder that claimed both his father and uncle.
NHL players, local businesses help Kootenay man raise funds and awareness for rare genetic disease

Signed NHL jerseys and local business donations up for auction in Skinny Genes Foundation fundraiser

An architectural design proposal from June, 2020, illustrates what a re-developed Hall Street Pier might look like. Illustration: City of Nelson
Nelson receives $1M grant for Hall St. Pier project

The design and extent of the project will be decided in the next few weeks

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read