By Sherri Lonon
Two local residents were nominated for pilot of the year honors for their dedication to the nonprofit that flies missions of mercy throughout the Southeast.
John Hanselman and David Trilling are on a mission to give back to others in need.
As pilots for Angel Flight Southeast, Trilling of Lutz and Hanselman of Odessa, give their time and donate their personal aircraft and fuel to take patients in need of medical care to appointments. Whether it’s transporting a child to another state for cancer treatments or flying a transplant organ from a donor hospital to a patient in need, Hanselman and Trilling stand ready to answer calls for help when they arise.
For their efforts, Angel Flight Southeast has nominated both Hanselman and Trilling for its pilot of the year award. The award is the highest honor Angel Flight bestows on its volunteer pilots.
Angel Flight Southeast is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that serves Florida. Through a network of about 650 volunteer pilots, the agency helps those who are unable to take commercial flights — whether for financial or medical reasons — get to their appointments within the state, or in other states. It’s part of the Air Charity Network, which logs more than 22,000 missions annually, according to Angel Flight’s website.
Trilling won pilot of the year during a ceremony Sunday night, while Hanselman received the “Above & Beyond” award, given to pilots who not only volunteer their time, planes and fuel for Angel Flight missions, but also work to raise awareness for the charity, and will often help with fundraising.
Hanselman and Trilling both say they are honored by the nominations and wins, but admit they don’t take to the skies in hopes of earning awards.
“Most pilots just absolutely love to fly, and they love to fly with purpose,” said Hanselman, who has been flying for Angel Flight for about a year.
Hanselman first learned about the organization in the 1980s while he was working on his pilot’s license. He promised himself if he was ever in a position to take part, he would.
When Hanselman retired and sold his stake in a business, he bought a Cessna 206h and kept that promise to himself. His first flight for the nonprofit was a year ago.
For Hanselman, being a part of such a “noble enterprise” is reward enough.
“I enjoy flying, and at the same time, it’s giving back,” he said.
Trilling’s motivations are similar.
“After five years of flying, earning ratings and certificates, I wanted to use the acquired flying skills to do interesting flying as well as give back to the community,” he said.
Trilling learned how to fly after working 35 years in the food research and development arena.
“After retiring, I consulted and learned how to fly, always having been interested in planes and the magic of flight,” he said.
Now a flight instructor and volunteer with Angel Flight, Trilling uses his personal plane, a Mooney, to conduct missions of mercy.
As for the nomination, Trilling is honored, but says that “all of the pilots who contribute their time and planes for this purpose are pilots of the year.”
For more information about Angel Flight, visit the nonprofit online at www.AngelFlightSE.org.