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Pilots flying personal protective equipment to help rural Virginia hospitals

PPE went from NRV to Wise County, Abingdon, Williamsburg

DUBLIN, Va. – Bernard Seward does not just fly for fun; he pilots planes to help people in need.

“I always wanted to fly as a young person, but I wanted a mission," Seward said. “I didn’t want to just put holes in the sky.”

On Thursday, Seward and two other pilots received a mission to airmail medical supplies to clinics in rural Virginia.

“Hopefully it will make a difference to the nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel out there,” said Seward.

The three pilots met at the New River Valley Airport early in the morning. Seward flew personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to Wise County; the other pilots brought PPE to Abingdon and Williamsburg.

All of the pilots are with Angel Flight, which normally flies cancer patients to emergency appointments. The pilots switched to cargo missions because of social distancing.

“It’s a hard time for lots of people, and I am just so grateful and privileged to be able to fly," Seward said.

The supplies came from the Virginia Rural Health Association, which has been purchasing PPE for rural hospitals since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

“They don’t have the purchasing power that big hospital systems do," said Virginia Rural Health Association Executive Director Beth O’Connor. "We’ve been placing bulk orders on their behalf, bringing everything in, then sorting it and sending it to each of the sites.”

O’Connor said the plane deliveries are not just faster than driving the supplies across the state, they are also safer.

“If I drove to Wise County, I’d have to stop once on the way there and once on the way back to fuel up, grab a snack, and whatever else," O’Connor said. "That’s that many more opportunities for me to be exposed to COVID.”

Seward said he’s ready to fly again if his services are needed, and many more pilots are waiting in the wings.

“We have lots of people out here who have airplanes, want to fly, and want to do good things for people," Seward said.


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