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Corporate Angel Network Marks 30th Year Since First Flight

December 23, 2011

From a rather humble beginning bolstered by a noble goal, the Corporate Angel Network has grown to an extensive array of companies that has helped tens of thousands of people with cancer reach get access to treatment. The non-profit group, which offers free flights aboard business aircraft to patients traveling across the country for medical care, celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

CAN Executive Director Peter Fleiss said it all began with one patient, and one plane. “Leonard Greene, founder of the Safe Flight Instrument Corporation, flew the first Corporate Angel Network flight on December 22, 1981 in his company's King Air 200,” Fleiss said. “Greene flew a 16 year-old boy home to Detroit for Christmas, who was getting cancer treatments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York. Today, over 550 companies have donated seats on their aircraft, and we fly roughly 250 to 300 patients a month.”

Fleiss added that Corporate Angel Network is on track to operate its 40,000th flight in 2012. “Our real focus is on helping cancer patients receive the best possible treatment,” he said. “Many of them are immune deficient, and can't fly on airlines. Companies send their schedules to us, and our computer matches those patient needs within the parameters we've given for potential matches.”

None of that would be possible were it not for the companies offering seats on aircraft operating routine business flights. NBAA helps Corporate Angel Network raise funds and spread the word about the group's mission. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of that support is the NBAA/CAN Charity Benefit, held each year as part of NBAA's Annual Meeting & Convention. Last year’s event raised over $220,000 for the group.

“NBAA has been a strong and long-time supporter in a number of ways,” Fleiss said. “Perhaps most importantly, NBAA's support and promotion gives us credibility and exposure to the people who don't really know about us. That makes it easier for us to pitch our services to corporations and flight departments.

“There's a real hidden benefit for companies that fly these patients,” he added. “When a CEO flies with a cancer patient and their family for the first time, they may not really think about it in the beginning. When they talk to the patient during the flight, though, it becomes extremely rewarding. They don't get a tax benefit, or any benefit other than feeling good that they're helping people.”

Fleiss noted the service provided by Corporate Angel Network is rewarding for him, as well. “I'm amazed with how many letters and phone calls I've received, from people who found a clinical trial far away. It's very powerful to hear someone say, ‘you flew us to that trial, and today we're cancer free.’ Business aviation has really stepped up here.”

To learn more about Corporate Angel Network, including information about how your company can help, visit the CAN web site at www.corpangelnetwork.org.