Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday Sitdown: Paul C. Hathaway, pilot, Angel Flight Northeast

Pilot Paul C. Hathaway, 49, has more than 2,000 hours and 23 years of civilian flight experience and holds commercial, multi-engine, instrument and rotorcraft pilot ratings, as well as an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic rating. He owns a Daher TBM 850, a high-performance, single-engine turboprop aircraft, based at the Fitchburg Municipal Airport, and is a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight Northeast, which provides free of charge transportation for patients needing to travel to hospitals in the Boston area.

Mr. Hathaway is vice president of marketing at the Tamarack Aerospace Group. Mr. Hathaway holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and an MBA from Franklin Pierce University. Before joining Tamarack, Mr. Hathaway held director-level marketing and product management roles at Honeywell Aerospace, Weather Services International and Avidyne.

He lives in Groton and travels with his daughter, Sophie C. Hathaway, 17. The two flew the North Atlantic in Mr. Hathaway’s plane in 2016 to England and back.

What was your first flight for Angel Flight?

“My first flight was in early 2008 from Hanscom Field up to Caribou, Maine, for a couple who had been to Boston for treatment. That was in my previous plane, a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza and my daughter, Sophie, accompanied me. She was 8.

“I just remember how far it seemed up to Caribou, even in an airplane. I couldn’t imagine having to drive that far for specialty medical care in the winter with a sick child or spouse. I did a couple of flights a year after that, but significantly stepped up the tempo when I acquired my new airplane in 2014, a TBM 850 turboprop, which is really a lot more capable in terms of number of passengers, pressurization, climate control and ability to handle weather and icing conditions. I did 25 Angel Flight missions in the last year or so.”

Why do you do it?

“I do believe in the oft-quoted saying that ‘service is the rent we pay for our room here on Earth.’

“I moved here from England when I was 16. England is a lovely country, but it is one where you have to ask everyone’s permission to do anything. You don’t see the level of personal flying that you do here in the U.S. because it is so much more expensive and complex.

“Here in the states we have an air traffic control system that is the envy of the world and remarkable personal freedoms to fly wherever we want in our own aircraft. There’s nothing that needs changing, despite what politicians might tell you.

“General aviation is a precious and fragile resource, and the jobs it provides and services it enables like Angel Flight should be encouraged.

“Fitchburg Airport, where I am based, is a really well-run municipal airport, with a top-notch staff who make the kind of service flights I do possible. The Angel Flight mission coordination staff are also just the best to work with. They perform a remarkable service.

“The airplane I currently own is also pretty complex and capable. It does require constant, active use to remain current, and Angel Flights are a great way to do that.

“Most of all, though, I think of the time saved for the families. I’ve heard stories about two to three days spent in the car driving to Boston with young children, one of whom was having constant seizures. I was able to get them to Boston from their local airport in less than two hours. It can give people a sense of normalcy back.”

Is there a patient that sticks out your mind that you helped?

“The kids especially stand out. I flew a 2-year-old old boy named Grayson Simpson from Charleston, South Carolina, to Providence, Rhode Island, and back with his whole family. The brain surgery, performed at the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, was critical for his development and it saved the family days in the car. There is a wonderful Angel Flight video that features them. He was transformed after he received his surgery. Just amazing.

“There’s a family who I have been regularly flying to Boston from Pennsylvania, also for brain surgery, for their young daughter. We’ve become good friends over seven or so missions.

“It is such a joy to see the transformation of the initial worries of Angel Flight passengers, both about the prognosis for their child or loved one and also nervousness about flying in a small plane for the first time, change over your time with them. The patients get healthier with repeated treatment and the families begin to appreciate the capabilities of flying in small airplanes more and more.

“On a recent trip from Boston up to Presque Isle, Maine, I took two families at the same time. One of the passengers was riding up front with me in the copilot’s seat. I don’t like to intrude on a patient’s privacy, but I asked as casual conversation ‘I hope that your visit went smoothly?’ She thought for a second and replied, ‘Well, I was told by my local doctors that there was no treatment available for me. But the doctors in Boston have admitted me to a clinical trial, and so there is hope.’ We flew along in silence for a while and her comments really sunk in with me. The small things we do to help other people can make a big difference.”

Would you encourage others to do it?

“There are a lot of pilots in the area who are part of Angel Flight, but there is always a need for more help and it is a great way to get involved, meet wonderful people and stay current in your airplane. I highly recommend it.”

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