Missoula entrepreneur Michael Burks has become deeply involved with Angel Flight, a group of independent pilots who fly children that need treatment to their appointments free of charge.

Burks and former Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy and now filmmaker Joe McNeal appeared on the KGVO Talk Back Show on Thursday with their special guest Mya, a 17 year-old victim of osteogenesis imperfecta, to talk about a documentary currently in production called ‘Angels Do Fly West’.


Burks described how he got involved with Angel Flight.

“I saw an advertisement for Angel Flight on Facebook and did a little research on it and found out that the recommendations and the things that are needed to become an Angel Flight pilot are very, very attainable by any pilot,” said Burks. Those include 250 hours, a VFR rating and insurance, so I immediately signed up and the results and the satisfaction and happiness and everything that comes along with serving others was immediate. You deal with people that are basically just focusing on one thing and one thing only and that's saving the life of someone they love.”

Burks said he and the other Angel Flight pilots have a specific mission.

“Angel Flight is basically for follow ups,” he said. “What we do is alleviate the travel and cost to patients such as Mya, who lives in Missoula, who has to go to Seattle at times once or twice a month. So, taking that eight hour drive and turning it into a three hour flight is huge for them. They don't have to pay for airlines; they don't pay for hotel, gas or anything. “All the pilots that are involved in the flight network are pleased to be able to alleviate all those costs and all that stress. Foe Mya alone, you heard her story, she's had over 100 broken bones. So sitting in a car for eight hours is just impossible for her.”

McNeal, who has won numerous international prizes for his writing and film making, described his involvement with the documentary.

“It started out as just ‘let's just do a video’ and now it's exploded into a documentary movie, to help with education,” said McNeal. "We want to help let the public know that they need more pilots and that that this is out there for people who are already financially strapped and worrying about the medical issues. But to me, I'm stepping into it looking at it saying, ‘these are unsung heroes’, and the public needs to know that there are people out there doing the right thing for the right reasons.”


KGVO then spoke to Mya who shared her story.

“I'm 17, and I have osteogenesis imperfecta, I just graduated high school, and I'm excited to be here,” said Mya. “About Angel Flight, my mom heard about it online and we started working with him and he flew me to my appointments in Seattle where I had surgeries and just checkups and lots of surgeries on like my legs and just rods being replaced and things like that. So I'm really lucky to have them in my life.”

McNeal said the documentary ‘Angels Do Fly West’ is in production and he hopes to enter the film into the many documentary film festivals within the next year.

Find out more about Angel Flight here.


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