Sunday, September 20, 2009

Angel Flight Pilot Jack Cantrell Paves Way for New Branch Office in St. Simons

“We are incredibly blessed to have pilots and friends like Jack Cantrell,” states Jeanine Chambers Biron, Executive Director of Angel Flight. “It’s through their dedication and continued commitment that we are flourishing. We are delighted to announce the opening of a new branch office at Malcolm McKinnon Airport in St. Simons with grand opening festivities on September 25 & 26. We are especially grateful to Jack and Kay Cantrell and their network of friends in the area who are making this new office possible so that we can extend our work in the region.”

About 15 years ago Jack Cantrell, who was living in Atlanta at the time, was searching for a way to make use of his plane to help out in the community. In passing, he mentioned this to the minister at his church who told him about Angel Flight. Cantrell was intrigued with the idea of flying passengers in need of transportation to medical treatments. He called Angel Flight the next day, oriented immediately and was flying for them within about a week!

“On one of my first flights I took a man from Georgia to Florida who was going to get a kidney transplant,” enthuses Cantrell. “The man and his wife had taken a taxi to the small airport to meet me and they were waiting patiently by the side of the runway. They weren’t able to fly commercially because his immune system was suppressed due to the drugs he was taking in preparation for the transplant. They were so happy to see me and I was a bit overwhelmed. I was glad to be able to help them out. After that I was hooked! I flew nearly 30 missions that first year. I love to fly and now I have a bigger purpose. I see the difference it makes in people’s lives and that’s something you can’t put a price on!”

“My father was an airline pilot and I always loved flying, Cantrell explains. “But when I was looking at careers I decided to go into medicine. I became a pharmacist and then went into the medical research field, working for Eli Lily in Indianapolis. An opportunity came up to come to Atlanta so I moved here and wound up as a home builder and real estate developer!”

“In the back of my mind though, I always wanted to help people and I also wanted to fly,” he says. “I started taking flying lessons about 25 years ago. Once I learned to solo, I’d get up early and fly before I went in to work.” When asked about what keeps him flying for Angel Flight, Cantrell says, ”You get to know people really well when you are flying them back and forth for treatments. They are so inspiring. They just want to get home and get back to work. I admire their fighting spirit.”

Cantrell has so many wonderful stories and memories of his many flights over the years. “You know, every mission is memorable,” he explains. “I am so thankful to be able to do this. We take a lot of burn patients. They have it really rough. Sometimes they can’t take any pain medicine before going in for surgery. It’s very gratifying to also see them afterwards. The difference is incredible.”

Jack and his lovely wife Kay are the founders and owners of Cantrell Properties, a successful building/development/real estate company. They both thrive on activity and they make a great team. In the 1960’s they spent their honeymoon on St. Simons and fell in love with the area. About five years ago they moved from Atlanta to St. Simons. Shortly after that, Cantrell started thinking about how he could improve the availability of pilots and Angel Flight services in the area and over the last couple of years he’s seen the growing need for an office there.

“I was able to secure the space at the Malcolm McKinnon Airport for a branch office and got in touch with Jeanine and the office in Atlanta to set things in motion,” he continues. “With the generous help of Renn Gruber of Renn Gruber Aviation we are throwing a big opening celebration on September 25 & 26 at our new office!”

On Friday, September 25th there will be a luncheon and ribbon cutting ceremony with area dignitaries and VIPS. Festivities will begin at 11:30AM with lunch and a tour of the new Angel Flight office. A fly-in will be held on Saturday, September 26th with brunch and new pilot orientation from 9AM to 1PM. Come out and join the festivities.

Angel Fight is a non-profit organization that provides free air transportation for people that have a medical need that can’t be filled in their local area. Their services are available throughout Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas. They actively seek both new patients to serve and experienced pilots to fulfill missions.

For more information about the new Angel Flight branch office in St. Simons, Georgia or to schedule a flight call 1-877-4 AN ANGEL or 770-452-7958. Angel Flight is celebrating 26 years of service...find out how you can help hope soar by visiting


Angel Flight is a non-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer pilot organization. They provide free air transportation for medical treatments that are not available locally and for other compassionate purposes for the benefit of the community. This service is available for any medically stable and ambulatory patient demonstrating a financial need and/or anyone who cannot utilize or access commercial transportation. They help families by eliminating the concern of how to get to necessary medical care, so they are able to focus on a resolution for the medical condition. Hopefully, this will help the patient to a more speedy recovery and will enable the family to resume participation in their communities and workplaces. This organization of volunteer pilots and earth angels (ground volunteers) are totally committed to their mission and has increased over 733% in flights coordinated since the year 2000. The majority of the people served live in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Angel Flight and their service is funded entirely by corporate and private donations. To request a mission or support the cause, call or go online.
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