Flying After 911

Two days after the World Trade Center Towers were attacked, I had the unique experience of flying a mission for Lifeline Pilots … when the skies over the U.S.A. were cleared of all but F-16s and a handful of emergency medical flights.

Here are some stories from that flight:

(From LifeLine Pilots: the shortest distance between home and hope. Reprinted with permission.)

Volunteer Pilot Response to 9/11 Attacks

Posted September 11, 2022 by Lindsey Kerr

On September 11, we honor those who lost their lives in the tragic events that took place 21 years ago.

In the wake of the attacks, most Americans wondered “How can I help?”

“When air traffic came to a halt, AirLifeLine Midwest (now LifeLine Pilots) mission coordinators and volunteer pilots continued to serve our nation by flying emergency Lifeguard missions to transport supplies and personnel to assist in the recovery effort.”

Pilot Ward Montgomery

Two of those pilots were Lyle Clapper and Ward Montgomery, along with their co-pilots. They made what seemed impossible possible. On September 13th, 2001, Ward and his co-pilot David, flew seven cases of Red Cross skin tissues from St. Paul to Peoria.

Pilot Lyle Clapper

“[We] arrive in Peoria to a hero’s welcome from the entire staff at LifeLine Pilots,” for their 10:30pm landing. Lyle and his co-pilot Norbert, added four more cases and set out on the longest single flight in the wake of an attack from Peoria to the Red Cross Tissue Processing headquarters in Costa Mesa, California.

One of the hardest parts of the mission was that there is only a 90-hour window of opportunity in which human tissue can be used and our pilots were called in at hour 72. The mission was successful, and the Red Cross processed the donated tissue into products to be sent to burn victims in New York and Washington D.C.

All pilots who answered the call of duty in the wake of 9/11 will long be remembered as the epitome of service to our nation.


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