Northwoods AirLifeline is a non-profit organization of volunteer pilots from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northeast Wisconsin who donate their time and aircraft to help patients and their families with urgent medical needs for services not found locally. Since our founding in 1989, over 2000 missions have been flown to destinations in lower Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Connecticut, and Texas, all at no cost to the individual.
Northwoods Airlifeline helps meet the needs of individuals who are financially distressed, unable to travel by other means, or under severe time constraints. We have found the most urgent transports involve transplant cases, since there is no place in the Upper Peninsula where transplants are done and the window of opportunity to perform the procedure is small. We frequently receive transport requests from chronically ill people who cannot drive long distances or afford commercial flights to specialized medical facilities. We also transport individuals beyond medical help who want only to be taken home be with their families, a service not covered by insurance. Relatives of severely injured patients transferred out of area may themselves need immediate transportation to be with their loved ones. These are among the many logistical gaps in medical care that Northwoods Airlifeline attempts to fill.
Northwoods Airlifeline was conceived by Bob Larson of Kingsford, Michigan in 1989. Our organization recruits volunteer pilots, operates a dispatching network to receive and fill requests for transportation, and conducts community education and fund-raising programs for its services. We have no salaried personnel or rental expenses. When using their own aircraft, our pilots absorb most of the expenses for the flight, amounts typically totaling several hundred dollars. Many flights today are performed with the organization’s planes, and the cost is between $200 and $350 per hour. Generous individuals and organizations help provide financial support for fuel, dispatch, hangar and aircraft expenses. The local community has been very supportive of our mission to help transport those in need.
Northwoods Airlifeline, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is governed by a board of nine pilots and community leaders. We solicit referrals from a wide network of community professionals and institutions. Our activities have been warmly received by specialized hospital care units such as the CS Mott Children’s Hospital and University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Northwoods Airlifeline is also affiliated with the St Vincent De Paul Society, the Salvation Army, and the Shriners through their excellent system of hospitals. Northwoods Airlifeline is associated with Air Care Alliance in Manassas, Virginia. The Lions Clubs of Michigan has been a major supporter of our efforts, particularly in the construction of our hangar at the Iron Mountain airport in 1999.
Northwoods Airlifeline (NWALL) welcomes your support. Founder Bob Larson puts it very well: “Before we formed NWALL, I didn’t realize how many people in the U.P. are suffering from cancer and other serious medical problems, or who are anxiously waiting for an organ transplant. My phone rings at all hours, but the rewards are great.” We echo the words of our founder as we carry on the mission he began.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan covers over 60.000 square miles with a population of about 350,000. Located between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, inclement weather, such as heavy snowfall or icing in the clouds and near the ground, is common. Since 1989 Northwoods AirLifeline has completed over 2000 missions, with only about 100 postponed due to inclement weather.