Angel Flight Northeast: Getting Vermonters the care they need

Some planes flying out of the Burlington International Airport are on a special mission.
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 8:45 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some planes flying out of the Burlington International Airport are on a special mission.

“We really are looking for ways to give back to our communities,” said veteran pilot Kirk Walters, with Angel Flight NE.

Walters is about as confident in the cockpit as they come.

“I’ve been flying for 48 years, learned in the backcountry of Idaho,” said Walters.

His last 15 years have been dedicated largely to taking his flying prowess and giving back.

“There is also a real need out there that is really obvious in all of our communities in terms of people that need to get from Point A to Point B,” said Walters.

It’s not an air ambulance. Angel Flight Northeast is designed to get folks with medical complications to the best care possible wherever that is.

There have been 43 missions and 43 vital trips to treatment.

“Oh, it’s just a huge comfort that they are doing this,” said Tim Kavanagh, a former WCAX employee undergoing cancer treatment.

“Whether they needed one flight or needed a thousand, we would always be there for them, and it would never ever cost them a penny,” said Larry Camerlin, the founder of Angel Flight Northeast.

Angel Flight Northeast was founded back in 1996 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. It runs on an army of volunteers who donate their time, talent and planes.

“I love the pilots that are flying for us. They are incredibly dedicated, amazing, giving individuals,” said Camerlin.

Those pilots have flown more than 103,000 flights and over 14 million miles in 25 years, but they aren’t just an air taxi.

“We are companions on their journey,” said Camerlin.

...Whatever that journey might look like.

“Some of them are so tired they sleep the whole time, and some of them, the kids have their nose pressed to the glass,” said one co-pilot.

Addi Carroll and her family are regulars on Angel Flights for her appointments in Boston for her rare and unnamed disease, but asking for help is no easy thing to do.

“We were reluctant to feel like we should ask for help. I don’t know if it was pride. I don’t know if it was feeling like we needed to do everything ourselves,” said Tammy Carroll, Addi’s mom.

Driving to Boston simply became too dangerous for Addi a few years back, but the roughly 30 specialists there make trips necessary.

Three years later, Tammy credits Angel Flight for offering the world to Addi.

“I am not sure we would be able to access the care that she needs. I’m not sure she would be alive,” said Tammy.

So whether they were chartering Addi herself or just allowing her parents to switch off to be by her side, the ask has never been too big.

“You know, pilots have been checking in on us. Folks from Angel Flight have been checking in on us when we aren’t able to leave the room,” said Tammy.

But despite the praise the pilots receive, Walters still calls himself the lucky one.

“I have felt very, very blessed to be part of this organization,” said Walters. “It does make what is often a complicated life, just a little simpler.”

The Carrolls and the Kavanaghs, though, can’t thank them enough.

While they can’t wipe the financial burden totally away, there is one thing they can do.

“That’s one thing we never want people to lose is hope,” said Camerlin.

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