Get ready to buckle up and hold on tight as Jessica Ames and Maddy Beck launch the inaugural episode of Take Off Talk with Angel Flight East! Joining them in the pilot's seat for this pilot episode is none other than the indomitable John Greco, their beloved adopted father in the aviation industry and a true icon. Prepare to be blown away as John shares his awe-inspiring path to Angel Flight East, uncovering the driving force behind his unwavering dedication to public benefit flying. Brace yourself for a captivating tale that will tug at your heartstrings—the unforgettable flight that earned John the title of AFE’s Pilot of the Year in 2018. Join this episode and let Jessica and Maddy fly you to interesting places with heartful people and their heartwarming stories!
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Welcome to Take Off Talk with our first guest, volunteer pilot, John Greco. Do you want to introduce yourself?
My name is John Greco. I've been an Angel Flight East pilot for many years. I am happy to be here.
We're so excited to have you here. To inform our audience a little bit more about who you are, we referred to John as our dad. He has adopted us because we call him probably more than our own dads to get stuff done around Angel Flight.
I'm glad to have you as my adopted daughters. It's my honor.
I don't think we can tell everybody you're our favorite, or people might get jealous, but you're one of our favorites.
There we go. Thank you.
We need other people to still take on stuff you can't do.
To start, how did you hear about Angel Flight East? How did you sign up with us?
I flew for a different organization named Volunteer Pilots Association out of Pittsburgh from 2000 until 2010, and then I took a break. I decided I wanted to fly dogs, so I worked for five years for Pilots N Paws flying lots of dogs. In 2015, I wanted to go back and have humans talk to me and not dogs barking. I went on Google and did a search for Angel Flights, and Angel Flight East came up. I called right away, filled out all the forms, and talked to Dom. That's how I found out about Angel Flight East.
What is your why? What's driving you to donate your time, your plane, and all that to public benefit flying?
It's a passion. It's one of the most important things I do in my life besides my family and businesses. It ranks right up there with everything else. The reason why is that I love to fly, and I love to help people. It's the best combination. I get to fly and help at the same time.
What is one of your favorite flights that you've done besides that time you flew us to lunch for Maddy's birthday?
That's number one. Number two would be back in 2018, I vividly remember seeing a flight that was on Thanksgiving Day. It was a couple from my area named Randy and Gina Runyan. Unfortunately, Gina had advanced brain cancer. What touched me was that it said that she wanted to be home for Thanksgiving dinner. I rearranged all my plans and made sure I got down to Chapel Hill and got her and Randy back home for Thanksgiving. That's one of my most memorable flights.
He spoke at our gala when you were a Pilot of the Year, didn't he?
Randy did. He was chosen as the speaker for my Pilot of the Year in 2018.
That was before we were friends.
You didn't like us back then.
I think I just met Jess at the gala. Maddy, were you with Angel Flight in 2018?
I was only part-time. I was still working my way into your heart. Would you say that Gina has had the most impact on you as a passenger?
Two passengers come to mind. It would be Gina and George Tenney.
We love George.
I'm trying to think of someone else. Heather also was one that I like very much. I do not fly her anymore because her treatment changed to a different location.
Our favorite thing about George Tenney is his voicemail. In the end, it says, "Maybe I'll call you back, but maybe I won't,” and then he hangs up.
He is a character. He calls me, and I'm sure he calls Scott as well, on every holiday. He called me on Memorial Day to wish me a Happy Memorial Day. He says always, “Thank you for all you did for me. I would not be here without you.” That's what he says. I'm sure he says the same to Scott.
Do you fly for any other organizations? If you do, we consider that cheating on us. Spill the beans.
I might have to take the fifth. I do fly occasionally. I'm having a senior moment at the other organization.
Is that the L organization?
You could certainly use those videos against me.
Do you remember that one time you flew them to a conference but not us?
I'm starting to sweat. I'll never leave that one back.
I know. We love LifeLine Pilots. They're amazing.
Angel Flight East works very well with LifeLine. You guys, together.
They're super helpful. When you're not flying for Angel Flight East or Lifeline Pilots, what do you do in your day-to-day?
I am a businessman. I own and operate five scrap metal yards. We produce scrap metal for the steel mills. It is all different forms from copper, brass, aluminum, and stainless to different iron grades. It is a family business that has been around since 1911. I haven't been around since 1911. My grandfather started it in 1911. I'm third generation, and my sons are fourth generation. We're trying to carry it on.
What about the restaurant?
The restaurant is a side business that I got into many years by accident. I tried to help the former owner out by loaning him money, and then he filed for bankruptcy. Somehow, I inherited the restaurant. I had to either shut it down or try to carry it on. I didn't want to see the employees lose their jobs so I carried it on. There you go. I'm in the restaurant business as well.
If we don't ever make it at Angel Flight, we know we have a job at your restaurant.
Come on down. You'll love it.
If you could say anything about being a volunteer pilot, what would it be?
It's so rewarding to be an Angel Flight pilot. It's hard to describe. I love to do it. I love to meet the patients and help them. That's the main thing.
"It's so rewarding to be an Angel Flight pilot. The experience is hard to describe."
You make it pretty easy to do our job. What's your favorite place to fly to?
When I fly up to Teterboro, the New York Manhattan skyline is hard to beat. Chicago is very nice as well.
I was thinking you were going to say Florida.
I kept that out because that's for pleasure and not for Angel Flight. I favor Angel Flight over Florida.
We favor you too.
We're waiting for you to fly to Wings Field more often.
I'm glad that I see more flights based on Wings to destinations. I like coming into Wings.
Is it so you can visit your daughters?
Absolutely, and to keep an eye on you two.
We need all the help we can get.
What is one final thought that you would want to leave our audience with?
To the other potential Angel Flight pilots out there, please do it. Please sign up. Please help. To anyone else, Angel Flight East is such an awesome organization. Please help them in any way you can. That would be my final thought.
"To the other potential Angel Flight pilots out there, please sign up. Please help. And to anyone else, Angel Flight East is such an awesome organization. Please help them in any way you can."
We're going to have to start paying you.
It’s $2.50 an hour, plus a sandwich once in a while.
We can do that. You do enough for us.
We can make a sandwich work.
That sounds good, girls.
We are so appreciative of you doing this and taking time out of your busy day to talk with your favorite organization.
Also, my favorite daughters.
That's true. You’re the best.
We appreciate it.
You're very welcome. It is my pleasure. We'll talk to you soon and see you soon.
You have to come and hang out.
That sounds good.
I love John. He's the best. I don’t know how he adopted us as his daughters.
It was during COVID. I don't remember. Do you remember the one time he made patients sing karaoke with him?
Yes. Some of them weren't the biggest fans, but he kept singing to them and signing up for the flights anyway to make them love him.
That's how we got attached to him.
I thought it was so sweet the one time he flew here to take us out to lunch for your birthday.
That was the best birthday present ever.
I don't think we were all friends when he was Pilot of the Year because I hardly talked to him at the gala that day.
I couldn't tell you if he was the Pilot of the Year or a Vista Award winner. I couldn't tell you who was who that year.
I don't even think we were friends.
I don't think we were friends either.
What a blessing to be friends now.
I thought you were going to say that we weren't.
I thought about that, but I feel like that would be rude to broadcast to the world.
Here you go, world, the real Jessica Ames.
Please keep tuning in to us. We're here all day.
We're here for too long.
We hope that you enjoyed this first episode of Take Off Talk. You can catch us once a week with different stories about patients, pilots, and healthcare workers and how they got connected to us.
If you hear any stories that you want to hear again, you can find our show on our website at AngelFlightEast.org and all the major podcasting platforms. I don't know what they are besides Apple Podcasts. Maybe Spotify. I don’t know. I'm the worst Millennial there is.
One day, we're going to be good at our jobs.
Not today, though, but we hope you tune in next time.
For now, you get to deal with us rambling. We hope that you enjoy it. We hope that somebody laughs even if it's at us and not with us.
I bet Andy will.
Hi, Andy. Look how famous we are.
We are really going to go now. Thank you so much.