The passengers' gratitude after the flight can be rewarding and is enough for most volunteer pilots. Today, behind the yoke is not just a volunteer pilot but also a commercial real estate broker. Brad Neihouser, the volunteer pilot of Angel Flight East, shares the virtues of being a volunteer pilot and helping people take off. He recollects the different experiences he had with flying and the connection he created with the passengers. Being a volunteer pilot, Brad shares why he wants to be involved in Angel Flight. Tune in to this amazing as Brad shares the virtues of being a volunteer pilot and helping people take off!
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I have been flying with Angel Flight East for many years. I don't remember when I signed up with Angel Flight East, but it's been a long time.
How did you hear about Angel Flight East?
Quite frankly, I don't know. I started with another organization in the Midwest called LifeLine Pilots, which I still fly for them. They weren't keeping me busy enough so I found some other ones. I found Angel Flight East, and then I was doing a lot of flying for Angel Flight East. I probably just googled it like how I found LifeLine Pilots and everything else. I believe that's how I found it.
A lot of our pilots that we've been interviewing also fly for LifeLine Pilots, so I feel like we are going to have to bring them on an episode one time so they can share what they do.
They don't do anything different than what you guys do. It’s just different geography. You guys all do fantastic work.
You're probably our third pilot to bring up LifeLine Pilots, but we do work quite a bit with them so it makes sense that we have some overlap. What's your why? What brought you into public benefit flying or the desire to start giving back with your airplane?
That is probably not why. I bought my first airplane when I was 44. I had my license since I was eighteen. What makes an airplane fly is not the propeller in the wings. That's money and lots of it. When you're young, you don't have any of that. I didn't fly much. I bought a little Cherokee 180, a four-seater. I told my wife we'll never need another airplane. That'll be a great little airplane. I was taking my instrument training at a local airport.
One of the guys that worked at the airport called out to my instructor in my airplane. He asked if he had some chart for something. I asked him, “What was that about?” He said, “The local airport had arranged for a pilot to fly someone up to Mayo Clinic whose family member was there.” A light bulb went into my head. I have to think the good Lord put it there. Angel Flight came to my mind.
I went home and googled Angel Flight. LifeLine Pilots came up and there it was. I signed up for my first mission the next week. That is how I fell into it. I loved to fly and help people. I had no idea it would ever morph into what I do. I have a goal in 2023, which I'm not afraid to tell everybody, which is to fly once a week. I'm close but probably not quite there.
I'm going to answer that in two parts. I answered the first part. The second part is, why do I do it? It is to give back. I love to fly. Flying is the only hobby I have besides enjoying my wife. I'll be kind to say that, not I would say chasing my wife but that is a hobby too. I love to fly and help people. That's the long and short of it.
I love to hear all about why the pilots chose to get involved with Angel Flight or at least how they got involved with Angel Flight. That's my favorite question to ask. Of all these flights that you're doing once a week or just about, do you have a favorite story of a flight or a passenger that's had the biggest impact on you?
Probably several because I've flown well-over 300 of these. I have not stopped counting. One was an Angel Flight East passenger. Jess, you might remember and I forget the name. I won't say the name but it was a lady in her mid-70s that had liver disease. Cirrhosis of the liver it's called but it was not from alcohol. That's usually an alcohol symptom. It was hereditary.
She was flying from somewhere in Kentucky to Pittsburgh. They were doing research on her so that in the future, someone else could benefit. She and her husband wanted some more time together. I fell in love with them. I flew them I don't know how many times. I got familiar enough that when we would land, they would want to take me out for supper all the time before I'd go home. She passed away. Her husband called me and invited me to come to the funeral. In typical Brad fashion, I said, “I'm too busy.” I regret that. I should have gone. That's one.
Another was a couple from Southeast Kentucky. We’re out in the hills out there somewhere. She had cancer and had to go up to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America probably once a month. It's a long way and it was hard to get pilots down in that part of the world for whatever reason. I would usually do the whole thing. I would go down there and pick them up, take them to Joaquin and get to know them pretty well. She also passed. He said, “You guys gave us five more years together.” How much better can it be than that?
Other ones, I don't know. I never had a bad one. Everybody's kind. I didn't prepare a lot but that's probably one I should have. I flew a lady and this would not have been your passenger. I thought it was her last flight. She was up in Cancer Treatment Centers of America Zion and did not get a good report. She was supposed to be up there for two days and she was up there over a week. When I saw she was going home, I went and signed up for the first leg. I told her I hoped I'd see her again. She did not get good news but she's still going back up again so she's still alive. That's wonderful. Those are probably the highlights. There's been a lot. I've met a lot of wonderful people flying.
I always love to see the bonds that the patients and the pilots form because they always start as complete strangers. We'll have pilots calls and say, “I want to fly this person every time. Please call me before you post their flight.” Even sometimes, we'll forget and then they'll call us and be like, “Why didn't you tell me they were flying again?” I feel like the pilots also become an extra support arm for the families that we help.
I always tell the passengers, “I'd much rather be up in my seat than back in your seat.” They're going somewhere unknown sometimes. If it's the first time, they don't know where they’re going and what the outcome is going to be. We can get them there safely. What else can we do? I have several passengers that way too. I normally don't tell the organizations to call me but if I see them pop up, I'll take them. Dominic would remember a little bit more. I always tell the organizations, “I'll be racing the hole. Let somebody else take it, but if nobody picks it up, call me at the last minute and I'll take it.”
We will have to remember that. Sometimes we need help.
It's been one of the highlights of my life to fly for these people. They always have a place to go. They need to get there. Some maybe could get there without us but it’s hard. It's a blessing to fly them. I don't know what else to say.
Sometimes people come to us. They feel bad that they may be taking a flight away from somebody who may be more in need. I always say we like to get the point across that we want to help people before they get to the point of emptying all their bank accounts. You may be able to get there once or twice but if you have to travel every week or every month, those costs can add up fairly quickly.
They do and sometimes in my mind, I think, “Did they really need us?” I would say for a passenger, it's hard to reach out for help. None of us like to ask for help. It's all good. I love doing it and talking to you guys. This is interesting.
What made you want to become a pilot?
I have no idea other than from the time I could walk, I looked up to the sky and loved airplanes. I always had a fascination with airplanes. I was fortunate. I had an uncle that was a flight instructor. When I scraped up enough money when I was sixteen, I started taking lessons. I got my license when I was eighteen. Other than spending time with my family, the thing I love to do is fly. Regrettably, my sweet wife doesn't like to fly too much.
She's happy if I take all these passengers around the country so I won't bug her to go with me. She will come once in a while. I have a son-in-law who's a pilot. That's great fun. The rest of our kids, if we'd go somewhere, they'd be sleeping in ten minutes at the beginning. If my dad had an airplane when I aged, I'd be all over this thing. I have always been fascinated with it.
I love when you're talking to a pilot outside. A plane flies by and they end the conversation and look up. They don't even remember what you were talking about before that plane flew by. I've been in conversations where they look up and they're like, “I know that. That's John.” I'm like, “How do you know that?” “You can tell by the way it sounds.” I'm like, “I know this is your hobby but we need to get you a hobby.”
I like to go to the airport sometimes. I tell my wife, “I'm going to talk to my plane a little bit.” I watch the windows and then go on about my day.
I was going to ask where your favorite place to fly to is.
Rochester, Minnesota. I've been there so much. That's fun to go to. The airport personnel all know me well. I always use the courtesy car to take the passengers into town because the airport is quite a ways from the hospitals, probably 15 miles. Rochester and Cleveland Burke Lakefront are always fun to go into. Other than that, wherever because I like to fly.
"Rochester, Minnesota, is fun to go to."
If you ever need extra passengers, we can clear our schedules for you.
We are always available for a flight.
We're quite a ways away. You're in Philadelphia.
You're going to have to make a field trip out to Philadelphia.
I have been to your airport before but I can't remember why. I was too busy so I didn't go see all of you guys.
What is your real job when you're not flying once a week for public benefit flying?
You need something to fund this expensive hobby we have. I'm a commercial real estate broker. I sell land and buildings in the Northern Indiana area. It is fun. This is my business attire. I'm known as the bow tie guy. I wear a bow tie every day to work. Once in a while, I wear it when I'm flying if I jump in an airplane.
"You need something to fund this expensive hobby."
I feel like I need to get an attire like that. I put in my hair instead.
Let's start wearing bows every day. It'll be our calling.
What is something that you would say about being a volunteer pilot? If there's somebody reading who is thinking about becoming a volunteer pilot, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to do it in a heartbeat. It gives those of us who want to be airline pilots a reason to fly. I would not have the airplane I have if it wasn't for flying Angel Flights. I couldn't justify it. My wife and I don't do enough traveling to make it worthwhile so I would not have that airplane. You get to fly, keep your skills sharp, and help people. It doesn't get any better than that. That's what I would say. I encourage any pilot to do it. A lot of them are afraid. I don't know why. Maybe I was bullheaded and was going to go after it. I don't know. They don't think they're good enough. I would encourage any pilot that likes to fly and likes to go places.
I like to go places. I'm long since graduated from boring holes in the sky around my hometown and looking down and thinking, “There's whatever.” That doesn't do a thing for me. Going 300 miles does something for me. I would encourage anyone to do that. You don't have to be super skilled. You need to be skilled but you don't have to have a fancy airplane. You need to be sharp and know what you're doing. We are hauling people. It is a person. I've had instances in the past where, a lot of times, if a mother and a child are going to be flying somewhere, a grandma comes along. She's all worried and scared.
Many times, I've put my arm around her and said, “Sweetheart, I have a family to come home to also. We're going to get her there safely.” That's the main job. A lot of pilots give the passengers the headset and they can start chatting. I don't do that. I give them a headset if they want for the noise. I feel like when the passengers are in my airplane, it's my job to get in there safely. I don't want them to tell me about what cousin Buford did in his Piper Cup years ago.
My job is to give my passengers the airline treatment, which is if you fly an airliner, they take off and got a couple of gentle turns. It's straight and level. When they get close to the destination, there are a couple of gentle turns and you land. I love it when the first-time passenger jumps out and says, “That's a lot smoother than I thought it was going to be.” Everyone has a cousin Buford who took them up and tried to scare the bejesus out of them. I do real gentle turns and so on.
All of the pilots reading will appreciate that answer. For the non-pilot readers, what do you want to leave them with?
I hope that they understand that there are a lot of good people out there that like to help people. This world is filled with a lot of bad news. The public benefit flying is a good news organization. We help people. We give them more time. Your role is to marry up the pilot and the passenger. That's not an easy role. Our role is to get them there safely and bring them back. I'm sure when you guys go home, at the end of the day, you feel great about what you did, and I do too when I fly.
No matter who it is, somebody got a little more time with their family. Most of the time, the folks that we fly are not going to live forever. They get more time with their family and are pulled back countless times. You gave us 5 years or 3 years together. That's what I would lead. There are a lot of good people out there doing a lot of good things. Maddy and Jess are two of them doing lots of good things.
We couldn't do it without you.
You're doing more things than we are. You have to fly an airplane. We have to hang out in our office all day.
I'd much rather fly my airplane than hang out in your office.
We won't take that personally.
We'd rather be in an airplane too. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us. We love to hear your stories. We are so excited to share this with all of our readers.
Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it, guys.
What a great guy.
His voice is so soothing. I would like to have him record a bedtime story.
I'm not going to say anything about that. I had a great idea on the way home of what our new hobby should be for the specific show. We should start. I'm over the moon water thing, and I've decided we should be beat boxers. I can beatbox and you can write the songs.
If anybody out there reading would like to be my beatboxer, please call me ASAP. I already have a song in mind. I thought about it over our lunch.
I was about to have a super heartfelt comment when we first came into this being like, “These pilots wore my soul because they do.” You come out from the left field with flipping beatboxing.
I bet Brad would beatbox with us.
I would listen to anything he does.
We do love LifeLine Pilots. A lot of our pilots fly with them too. I feel like we almost share a lot. They're probably the organization we share the most flights with.
It also stems because LifeLine, although they're based in Illinois, they do also cover Ohio. Typically, at least how it was in the old days, they would cover the Western side of Ohio. We were only on the Eastern side.
Olden days as in the 1800s or 2005?
My one-liners have been great. I have so many zingers.
That wasn't a zinger. Nothing zinged. Nobody. I can't wait for people to read this. All of a sudden, we're going to get emails and people being like, “Jess, a zinger is defined as this.” I’m making dumb comments.
I'm nervous about the trolls and the comments.
I'm excited. Somebody, please troll us other than Andy.
Andy is going to troll us.
Speaking of trolling us, for anybody who is out there tuning in on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser, please go ahead and give us a review. If you don't want to send us an email to let us know what you think about us, please do it right there so we can have the review. Give us a 5-star or a 2-star rating. That way, we can make sure that people are actually reading, and we're not just talking on the internet. Although, we will still keep going if we are.
Somebody will hear it one time and be like, “That was such a great show. I'm going to subscribe.”
I'm going to read it six times each episode, keeping a loop. That way, it seems like we got a lot of views but it's just me. Unless you people actually read, then I don't have to.
Don't skew our results like that. We are honest Nellies.
My personality needs help.
Your thirsty appointment says that too.
Sometimes it does. I need a little emotional support.
Don't we all? That's why nobody comes into our office because they know.
I got so nervous. What's his title? He's the manager of the airport but more specifically, client relations showed up in our office.
I thought we were not going to get kicked out.
I thought we were getting evicted.
He showed up and stared at us. I'm like, “What did we do wrong this time?” It was all good. We love Joe too. Joe picked us.
He came in and we thought we were going to get kicked out. We have not yet been kicked out of the Waynesfield, plot twist. If you're coming by, come visit. We are on the second floor.
We hope you read next time and enjoy our rambling at the end of every episode. Be sure to share the show with your friends and family so more people will find out about Angel Flight East.
Also, the dumb stuff that goes through our heads.
Thank you. Bye.
- Brad Neihouser
- Angel Flight East
- LifeLine Pilots
- Apple Podcasts - Take Off Talk with Angel Flight East
- Podchaser - Take Off Talk with Angel Flight East