Jeanne was very sick with pancreatic cancer. Due to her struggles with the symptoms and pain associated with it, she was referred to the Mayo Clinic, five hours away from her home. Would she be able to handle the drive? Then, a friend suggested that she contact a pilot who performed “mercy flights."
This suggestion excited Jeanne and her family. Here was an opportunity for her to be flown to the Mayo Clinic in less time, and the cost was free—humanitarian service for the passenger.
Mercy flights, or angel flights, are names used by pilots or aviation, organizations that provide transportation free of charge for needy patients. Like the Good Samaritan in the Bible, these mercy flights lend a helping hand and give ope to people in need.
Adventist World Aviation also performs these “mercy flights” with the Toku-Hana, a 1963 Piper Comanche (N7956P) that has an incredible history. This plane was donated to AWA in 2012. Since then, it has been used to create an interest in youth for aviation through involvement in the Young Eagles program, as well as provide free transport for patient to medical facilities.
Henry Ohye, a United States born Japanese-American citizen, fell in love with flight at the age of nine. By saving his pennies, he was able to take flight lessons and earned his private pilot’s license in 1931. In 1933, he became the first Nisei to ever receive a commercial transport pilot’s license. His pilot’s certificate was signed by Orville Wright.
In 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ohye attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army AirCorps. He was declined due to his race. Instead, he was sent to an American “relocation” camp in Arizona. In spite of this, he remained a loyal U.S. citizen.
In the 1960’s, economic and trade tensions arose between the U.S. and Japan. Ohio planned and executed a “goodwill” mission to Japan int he attempt to reconcile the countries and maintain peace.
The ’63 Comanche, christened the Toku-Hana in honor of Ohye’s parents, took off from Los Angeles in July, 1964. It stopped along the route in Oakland, Honolulu, Midway, wake, Guam, and Okinawa. The flight ended successfully in Tokyo where the Ohye delivered his letters of good will from sister cities in the U.S., helping to maintain peace and friendship between the two countries.
When Ohye planned this mission of goodwill, he was not looking for self gratification, men’s applause, or even monetary gain. His motivation was simply to bring about reconciliation and friendship between two countries that had been ripped apart by war and distrust. He made this perils journey out of love for his fellow men. He donated his time, energy, and resources to help make the world a better place.
Now that the Toku-Hana has become a part of the Adventist World Aviation fleet of planes, it is once again doing the work that it was originally commissioned to do. Its purpose has been to serve humanity in works of goodwill and reconciliation. As a flagship plane, it will help to promote AWA in our endeavor to raise awareness of the need for donations to provide more places. Funds are greatly needed to make it possible to provide access to medical care for people in remote regions and areas that have been affected by catastrophic events.
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