David Dominy is managing director of JLL Houston’s Valuation and Advisory Services business. But on the weekends, he serves as a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight South Central, a nonprofit organization that provides free air transportation for medical and humanitarian purposes.
Dominy first got involved with Angel Flight South Central six years ago, when a friend asked him to act as a flight assistant to pick up a cancer patient in north Texas and fly them to Houston.
“I got inspired by that, and loved that opportunity to provide a gift to somebody,” Dominy said.
After starting as a flight assistant with the organization, Dominy became a volunteer pilot about three-and-a-half years ago. To date, all of his passengers have been cancer patients, and have usually been traveling to MD Anderson in Houston to undergo follow-up treatments.
Dominy’s most recent flight in March was to Laredo, Texas, where he arranged to pick up a woman undergoing cancer treatment at MD Anderson, along with her daughter.
“We were able to turn what would have been a five-hour drive, probably at minimum, into a less than one-hour flight.”
Dominy flies a single-engine Daher TBM aircraft, which he keeps at the Houston Executive Airport in Brookshire.
Volunteer pilots with Angel Flight South Central are able to look at a manifest of available flights and request missions that are compatible with their aircraft.
“I've got the flexibility of having an aero plane that goes further and faster than a lot of folks have, and so I will typically look at a mission that will be a little longer in distance, that it might take somebody twice as long to accomplish,” Dominy said.
Although he has not been able to complete as many missions as he’d like, Dominy said he is aiming to complete somewhere between eight and 12 trips this year.
The need for these volunteer flights is significant. Many passengers are immunocompromised, where it would be too risky to board a commercial flight. In other cases, passengers live in a geographic area lacking a commercial airport.
That need is becoming even more acute, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that people who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions are at greater risk of severe illness from the disease, leaving many people unable to venture into public places.
Dominy said there is a greater need now for pilots, based on a growing list of available missions through Angel Flight South Central, and coordinators are also scheduling flights further out in time.
“There's quite a need right now, so I would anticipate that I will be reviewing the manifest and do another trip within the next week or so,” Dominy said.
He hopes others might be interested in getting involved with Angel Flight South Central, especially at a time when demand is only likely to rise.
Dominy’s good deeds were featured on JLL’s social media this week, which has already attracted interest from other members of the commercial real estate community about how to get involved.
“I've had really positive feedback from a lot of people, which I never anticipated, frankly,” Dominy said.
He told Bisnow that one CRE acquaintance had already reached out after the social media post. That person shared their story about getting involved with flying because of a child with a medical condition, and is now interested in exploring how to become a volunteer pilot.
Aside from pilots, Angel Flight South Central also needs volunteer drivers, who can transport passengers from the airport to their accommodation or to a medical facility.
“They can't fly an aero plane but they can drive a car, and they're just as important, they get the patient to the final destination,” Dominy said.
Dominy noted that there were many more pilots out there, who have been volunteering for much longer, and have accomplished many more trips. He also gave credit to the coordination staff who match pilots with their missions.
“It's a very complicated matter, coordinating weather and trips and people and luggage and the medical needs of the people. It's a huge job,” Dominy said.
Ultimately, Dominy said he believes his opportunity to fly is a gift, and one that he hopes to use to help others.
“It is a gift to me, and I love the opportunity to give back.”
Contact Christie Moffat at firstname.lastname@example.org