Editor:

I did not realize that Mr. John Fairweather is an aviation advocate (“Drones the way to go,” Letters to the Editor, April 5).

But he is even more of an enthusiast than most of us in that he advocates putting a drone in every front yard in the city at “any hour of the day or night.” Wow, what an improvement over an occasional plane overhead! Additionally he speaks as if his panacea were already here and ready to replace cars, bicycles, trains and planes. Maybe I don’t have his vision, but I just don’t see them anywhere. Maybe we could just use UFOs until the drones come?

His comments about organ transplants and public benefit air transport of medical patients could be dismissed as foolish if they were not such a reprehensible display of ignorance and calumny. Organ transplants are time-sensitive and often come over long distances that fate puts between donor and recipient.

This typically means the use of turbine aircraft that have the speed and endurance to complete the mission. The only unmanned aircraft or drones that can travel at the requisite speeds today are cruise missiles — not the sort of thing you want landing at the local hospital. Our municipal airport is the best place for organ transplant deliveries on their way to UCLA or Cedars-Sinai medical centers and the like. While it is not completely out of the question to contemplate landing an organ at the airport and then transporting it to the local hospitals by drone, that technology is not here yet — not even close, and we would still need an airport to make it work. For the foreseeable future, they will need to fight their way from the airport through the increasing deadlock of our cities by car.

If Mr. Fairweather had bothered to contact the Angel Flight offices here at the airport instead of using their website as a jumping-off point for rife speculation, he might have understood the true impact of their endeavors. Just like the city government in Santa Monica, the healthcare system in this country is broken. Groups like Angel Flight West have been formed all over America by pilots who wish to make a real difference in the lives of their fellow citizens by helping to mend a gap in the healthcare net. As an example, if you are a farm worker in the central valley and need cancer care at UCLA, there is a pretty good chance that you can get it if you can only get there. Teaching hospitals have “soft” money to treat patients, but little “hard” funds to supply transportation by plane, bus, train, or car. A typical patient may need to be seen three times a week for a few hours. Getting to UCLA from, say, Delano every other day on the bus or by car is simply not going to happen for myriad financial and logistical reasons. Angel Flight West does make it happen more than 800 times a year right out of our Santa Monica Airport. From there, a volunteer driver or compensated taxi ride often sees them safely to the help they so desperately need. Angel Flight West and kindred organizations exemplify a strong community spirit that could well set an example for other, not so charitable, denizens of our community.

It seems to me very callous to allege “but some people may not be able to afford it [commercial airline service] and I suppose that is the niche that the service fills.”

What we are speaking of is not a “niche”, it is a gaping hole in our healthcare system and many, many, of us who are perhaps not as affluent as Mr. Fairweather’s comments make him out to be, would suffer needlessly or die if public benefit flying activities did not exist. The effrontery of his conjecture about Angel Flight suggesting that “your great work as a justification to keep SMO open makes absolutely no sense whatsoever” really separates Mr. Fairweather from the herd. I don’t know about you, but I am not sure I would want to be part of a society where endeavoring to save human lives by using the best tools we have at hand “makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.” It is Mr. Fairweather that makes no sense what so ever.

 

Bill Worden

Venice, Calif.

 

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