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MAJOR MILESTONE: Pilots for Patients makes 4,000th flight

MONROE, La. - Pilots for Patients has made its name by changing thousands of lives across Northeast Louisiana by flying patients to medical centers across the country to get the care they need.

NBC 10's Morning Anchor Connor Ingalls' special report brought you their story earlier this month, and now has an update of their major milestone.  

Another day of helping people at the Pilots for Patients hangar in Monroe, and while the missions are always important, today was special for another reason... 4,000.

That's the mission total that Pilots for Patients reached Wednesday, almost 10 years to the day they flew their first patient on May 19th, 2008.

It's tough for President and CEO Philip Thomas to even believe.

"We thought more like five or ten a month...But we would've never dreamed that right now we're completing 15 to 30 missions a week," says Thomas.

Taking patients from across Northeast Louisiana to cities across the country, where they can get the specific medical treatment they need, and it's totally free... Well, almost.

"They're like, what's the catch? There is no catch. Well, how many times can I fly? As many times as it takes. And they still say, what's the catch? You gotta charge something. And I say, yes, we do charge.

We knew it, we knew it, what do you charge? We charge hugs. That's the only thing we charge," says Thomas.

Linda Whatley is evidence of that. She's spent 3 years flying to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in her fight against breast cancer.

Mission 4,000 is her 39th flight with Pilots for Patients.

"I've met a lot of pilots," says Whatley. "If it were not for pilots for patients, well I'd say I couldn't have. But I feel blessed that I can go to MD Anderson."

Just one of countless lives changed over the course of 4,000 missions.

A number that won't stop rising any time soon.

"I've always said if you can't help your friends and neighbors, who can you help," says Thomas.

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