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Airlift Hope Pilot of the Year: ‘Every Flight Is Memorable’

Kenny Hardin, a Fayetteville, North Carolina, resident and business owner, is being honored as “North Carolina Pilot of the Year” at a Gathering of Eagles banquet sponsored by Airlift Hope of America.  The annual event— a sort of Oscars for the volunteer pilots—will be held in Virginia Beach. Airlift Hope of America Executive Director Jim Smith states, “It is important that we recognize the service of all our volunteer pilots, particularly our go-to pilots who have earned Pilot of the Year honors. If not for their dedication the cause, we simply could not accomplish our mission.”

free medical flight pilot of the yearHardin volunteers his time, services, and the use of his personal aircraft, to fly patients for specialized medical treatment at otherwise unattainable locations.  As the recession has worsened, many patients find that they are unable to afford the transportation to their medical treatment facility, such as Duke or Shriners hospitals.

Hardin’s many flights have included transporting children and adults who are terminally ill.

“Every flight is memorable,” Hardin said. “I make each patient take a picture and sign my book. When I’m having a tough day, I look through the book. It cheers me up.”

Hardin has been flying for six years. His interest in aviation was the result of a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. “After the ride over the Grand Canyon, I was hooked,” Hardin said. He took his introductory flight at Gray’s Creek Airport in North Carolina.

After hearing about Airlift Hope of America from his peers, Hardin decided to volunteer in the summer of 2007. “It’s a neat way to give back to the community, plus I enjoy flying. It’s a win-win situation.”

Hardin, like all Airlift Hope of America pilots, uses his own aircraft and pays for fuel, maintenance, and repair out-of-pocket. During 2009, Airlift Hope of America assisted 2,154 clients for a total of 1,284 flights. In North Carolina, Airlift Hope of America assisted 393 clients for a total of 244 flights.

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