'Angel' volunteer pilots help families across U.S. during pandemic

"We're really grateful," said one mom whose family was flown to California.

June 23, 2020, 7:41 PM

Pilots donating their time, aircrafts and skills are living up to their name, helping families across the country during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Angel Flight Northeast, based in North Andover, Massachusetts, links volunteer pilots with communities in need.

The volunteers have taken to the skies to deliver vital protective gear to hospitals in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. They’ve delivered COVID-19 test kits to Minnesota and food, water and clothes to Navajo communities in the southwestern U.S.

The Angels swooped in to help the Cooney family in Boston when mom Elizabeth landed a new job teaching at a California charter school in May. Elizabeth Cooney's 9-year-old son, John, was battling cancer and the job would help support the family and get John the specialized care he needs. Unsure how they'd get to California, the Angels stepped in to help.

Volunteers with Angel Flight Northeast bring coronavirus test kits to Minnesota.
Heather DiLuzio, Angel Flight Northeast

“We’re just really touched that, you know, someone that doesn’t even know us is willing to do this,” Elizabeth Cooney told ABC News. “We’re really grateful.”

The nonprofit has now flown about 400 flights across 15 states since the pandemic began.

Volunteer pilot Richard Jacobs spoke to ABC News in Massachusetts just after returning from a flight.

Volunteers with Angel Flight Northeast bring food, water and clothes to a Navajo community during the pandemic.
Heather DiLuzio, Angel Flight Northeast

“I’m based in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Call sign ‘Angel Flight 1818,’” he said. “In these COVID times, people seem to forget the fact that there are lots of people struggling with cancer and other medical issues.”

Jacobs says he started volunteering because he loves to fly.

“This gave me an opportunity to help people at the same time,” he said. “We feel really good after each mission.”

Jacobs has done more than 750 flights for free. He and his team are ready for their next mission. Meanwhile, in California, the Cooneys are filled with gratitude.