History

  • Mid-1970’s:  The concept of “Public Benefit Flying” came about
  • 1982:  A Nevada-based group, American Medical Support Flight Team (AMSFT) formed.  The mission of these pilots was to ensure that transportation would not be an obstacle to accessing proper medical care.
  • 1983:  A retired, widowed pilot, Mary Webb learned of AMSFT and started a Florida Chapter.  She turned to the female pilot organization, the “99’s” for help.
  • Mary ran the organization from her kitchen table and flew many of the missions herself.
  • Late 1980s:  By the end of the decade several other Volunteer Pilot Organizations (VPOs) had formed across the country.
  • 1993:  Mary was stricken with an aggressive form of brain cancer.  With Mary playing such an important role in the organization, its future was in jeopardy.
  • George Pringle and his son John, both Florida Chapter pilots quickly stepped in and offered help.  As owners of Pringle Development, a retirement community in Leesburg, Florida, they had the resources to keep the organization afloat and make it grow.
  • The organization was moved to Leesburg in late 1993.  It was completely staffed by volunteers – residents of the Highland Lakes (Pringle) community.  This was the beginning of ground support volunteers.
  • 1994:  Mary Webb sadly lost her battle with cancer.  Lee Johnson was hired as our first full time staff member.
  • 1997:  We changed our name to Mercy Flight Southeast and grew regionally into the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
  • 2000:  More corporate changes afforded us a seamless network so we could easily link with sister Air Charity Network partners across the country.
  • 2002:  We moved to our current location at Leesburg International Airport.
  • 2003:  A merger with Air Lifeline made Air Charity Network the largest public benefit flying organization in the United States.
  • 2004:  We became part of the Homeland Security Airport Transportation System (HSEATS).  Prior to becoming an official partner with Homeland Security, we had flown countless missions to support the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and 9/11.
  • 2005:  Our HSEATS program was put to the test with Hurricane Katrina.  We coordinated over 700 missions to aid the survivors and care for relief personnel and supplies.
  • 2011: Mercy Flight Southeast applied to the FAA for a fuel reimbursement exemption, allowing the organization for the first time in history to reimburse pilots for fuel. We hope to have an answer in early 2012.
  • 2012: On April 19, 2012, Mercy Flight Southeast received an exemption enabling the organization to reimburse its pilots for the cost of fuel related to flying Mercy Flight Southeast missions. Since the inception of this proud organization 29 years ago, volunteer pilot charity could not compensate, or reimburse any of its pilots for the now considerable cost of fuel. Under this exemption, Mercy Flight Southeast and its pilots may now raise funds specifically for the purpose of a personal or group “fuel fund,” where the qualified volunteer pilot(s) may draw from to offset the cost of his/her charitable flight.