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DXR Pilot is Changing Lives One Flight at a Time

DXR Pilot is Changing Lives One Flight at a TimeTo the normal observer at the Danbury Municipal Airport, Robert Statius-Muller might seem like any other pilot readying his Mooney for flight. But Robert is not just any other pilot punching holes in the sky or flying to the next $100 hamburger. Robert is a pilot on a mission. And he’s changing lives, one flight at a time.

Robert Statius-Muller is a volunteer pilot for an organization called Patient Airlift Services (PALS), a non-profit based in Long Island, NY, whose mission is to arrange free air transportation for individuals requiring medical diagnosis, treatment or follow-up who cannot afford or are unable to fly commercially. Robert donates his skills, time, airplane and all expenses of each flight — and in exchange he’s changing the lives of patients in need.

Robert has primarily flown passengers battling cancer, but PALS helps patients with a variety of diagnoses who need to access medical care far from home. Additionally, PALS provides transportation for patients’ family members and is proud to assist military personnel through its PALS for Patriots Program.

“The people you fly are so grateful,” he says, “They truly need us. It’s a great way to be really useful to others and it’s incredibly rewarding.”

Being useful is what inspired Robert to seek out opportunities with PALS in the first place.  As many of us do when preparing for retirement, Robert began to look for ways to be active and contribute beyond the working world. A long-time pilot and aviation enthusiast, Robert wanted a way to combine his hobby of flying with giving something back. Enter PALS.

Robert Statius-Muller (right), passenger Sheri (center) and AutoPilot, Mark Timmerman (left)After hearing about PALS through an aircraft owner’s forum, he began to do a little research on volunteer pilot organizations. “I was just so impressed by PALS. They were so professional. Everything was well thought-through, from the questions asked on the application to speaking with the staff.” Robert noted that staff and Board members were always available to answer any questions he had.

Photo caption to the left: Robert Statius-Muller (right), passenger Sheri (center) and copilot, Mark Timmerman (left).

A lot of pilots flying public benefit missions stress over the idea of having to cancel a flight due to weather or other factors. They are afraid to let their passenger down. Robert is thankful that PALS helps alleviate that pressure. “At PALS, the team is always very supportive of your judgment calls. No one will ever second-guess your decision to scrub a mission.” The PALS staff is prepared to handle both communication with the passengers and rescheduling to get them where they are going. Through partnerships with airlines, charter companies and other aviation partners, PALS is able to complete many of the flights that might otherwise be cancelled due to the unpredictable nature of GA flying.

When asked to describe his personal experience with PALS, Robert was quick to say his interactions have always been professional and above all else warm. “You don’t often see that together,” he says. “I’ve always felt a real warmth with PALS. It’s a real team and they make me feel a part of the community.”

PALS touts itself on being a pilot-focused organization. “We say it all the time,” says Executive Director, Eileen Minogue, “No pilots, no PALS.” The organization maintains a staff of ten, who work around the clock to ensure that every detail of every flight is taken care of for both the patient and the pilot. The mission coordination staff works hard to notify airports of arrivals, gets fees waived, and even arranges ground transportation from the airport to the hospital.

For those of you who have ever considered volunteer flying, Robert has some advice for you: “Go for it! It’s so worthwhile.”

Being able to combine something you’re passionate about with a real purpose is a win-win. Robert’s generosity has helped patients with no other option receive the medical care they so desperately need. “It is a privilege to be able to fly — a joy.” Robert says, “And I wanted to share that with others”. You can too. 

PALS invites compassionate pilots to join them. For more information or to join, please click here: www.palservices.org  

Visit with PALS in person at the AOPA Groton, CT Fly-In, Oct 6 & 7th.

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