Angel Flight East Kootenay has added a new aircraft to its operations.
The organization, a volunteer-run transport service that flies Kootenay hospital patients to medical appointments in Kelowna, has purchased a Cessna 414A, a twin-engine fully de-iced seven-seater that is able to fly in more adverse weather conditions.
While the aircraft won’t be able able to fly in all types of weather, it will be able to fly much more reliably and climb over most weather, which will improve service to East Kootenay residents, according to Brent Bidston, the founder of Angel Flight East Kootenay.
“Our area is very challenging,” said Bidston. “Because our mountains are so high, if we’re operating in cloud, even in the middle of summer, you tend to be operating in icing conditions. And the great thing about this aircraft, is that we can cope with that.
“So in many occasions when the weather would have stopped us, we can carry on now.”
The purchase of the aircraft was made possible following a commitment of over $500,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay, to be spread out over five years, while additional funding support came from the Columbia Basin Trust, Teck Resources and private donations from individuals who wished to remain anonymous.
“The Regional District of East Kootenay is proud to have committed over $500,000 over five years to Angel Flight East Kootenay to enable to purchase of this plane, in recognition of the valuable service this program provides to residents of our region,” said Rob Gay, RDEK board chair.
The aircraft will be based in Cranbrook, as it is an IFR (instrument flight rules) aircraft, as it will require instrument-equipped airports.
Bidston, who founded Angel Flight East Kootenay over two years ago as a compassion service to take patients to specialist medical appointments in Kelowna free of charge, knew that the operation would need a aircraft that had de-icing and other operational capabilities.
“We knew right from the get-go, that the main problem we would have, was having to tell people that, ‘Sorry we can’t go today because of the weather,’” Bidston said. “And that was inevitable, there’s no avoiding it, and even now [with the new aircraft] that will still occasionally happen, but we’re hoping it will be a lot less than it has been.
“So right from the get-go, we knew needed a better aircraft, but it’s a very difficult thing to accomplish, but happily, we’ve got there now.”
For more information on the organization, or to request a flight, visit their website Angel Flight East Kootenay.