Friday, June 02, 2017

Kilton Kingsman: Angel Flight Southeast names Pensacola man Pilot of the Year

Kilton Kingsman, who has been named Angel Flight Southeast's Pilot of the Year, stands for a photo on Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Pensacola. Kingsman is a newly promoted lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve and flight instructor at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

When Robert Greathouse had to get to Tampa almost two years ago for a bone marrow transplant, he didn't know what to do.

The 53-year-old Pensacola resident was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2014, and eight months later chose to go to Tampa for treatment.

As he was facing a 500-mile, one-way trip at least once a month, Greathouse heard about Angel Flight Southeast, a nonprofit volunteer pilot organization that provides free air transportation in Florida for patients needing medical care.

One of the pilots Greathouse met on his flights was Kilton Kingsman, a newly promoted lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve and flight instructor at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Kingsman flew 26 missions last year for Angel Flight Southeast using a four-seat aircraft out of Ferguson Airport.

Earlier this spring, the 33-year-old was named Angel Flight Southeast's Pilot of the Year for 2016.

"We try to make them as comfortable as we can in a small aircraft," said Kingsman, now settled in Pensacola after serving 10 years active duty in the U.S. Navy, which included two deployments to the Middle East. "We're trying to put them at ease with the whole process. It can be bumpy one day or we can fly through rain showers. You're trying to talk with them and treat it like a road trip."

Kingsman is not only Angel Flight Southeast's top volunteer. He is also Greathouse's favorite pilot in the organization. Greathouse estimated he's flown with approximately 10 pilots since he started using Angel Flight Services in 2015.

"We clicked," Greathouse said of Kingsman. "We get in the air and we chitchat and he takes my mind off all that I'm going through."

Kingsman, who is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the father of two boys, ages 4 and almost 2. He said he never had the time to lend to Angel Flight Southeast before coming to Pensacola. Volunteering for the organization helps Kingsman maintain his proficiency time in the cockpit.

"It's a great way to get flight hours," he said.

Greathouse said he feels better now. He's still fighting fatigue and he anticipates needing to rely on Angel Flight Southeast for another seven to eight months as he continues treatment.

"It is amazing what they do," he said. "It's a whole lot easier than an eight-hour trip (by car) one-way."

Kingsman flies patients in a Cessna that belongs to a friend, Jim Hamilton, who donates the use of the plane to Angel Flight Southeast. Kingsman pays for the fuel for the plane and gets a discount through Angel Flight Southeast.

"It's basic but it's good for regional stuff," said Kingsman of the plane. "It was a straight-up blessing having Jim as a friend."

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