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Saturday, April 19, 2014
Going above and beyond
Couple transport medical patients by plane and car, free of charge
Courtesy Warren Hoffman
Warren Hoffman, left, with passenger Gerald Jaffee during a recent PALS trip, in front of Hoffman’s Beach Sierra.

Warren Hoffman always wanted to learn how to fly a plane. In 2005, he decided to make that dream a reality, and contacted a former client who is a licensed pilot. Days later, Hoffman, 53, a lifelong East Meadow resident and an attorney in Mineola, was aloft in his friend’s plane, learning the basics of flying.

Less than two weeks later, he was taking flying lessons. “It hooked me,” said Hoffman. “Just the thought of being up in the air, like a bird flying, no restrictions — it’s very invigorating.”

But Hoffman, whose desire to fly was initially purely recreational, had no idea that he would soon be serving a greater purpose: transporting patients to medical facilities who otherwise would not have the financial means to get there.

Hoffman is a volunteer pilot for Patient Airlift Services Inc., or PALS, a nonprofit organization based in Farmingdale that arranges free transportation for financially disadvantaged people in need of medical care throughout the Northeast. He learned of the organization through his flight instructor, Deron Kessel, who is involved with it.

Hoffman’s wife, Lori, 52, also volunteers for the organization as an “auto” pilot, driving patients to and from the airport and the medical facility. The couple bear all the expenses, including fuel for the plane, gas for the car and tolls. Though PALS has a reimbursement program, the Hoffmans choose not to use it. “To me, I’m doing a beneficial thing for people,” Warren said. “It’s rewarding doing it for PALS, and its just fun doing it for myself.”

Eileen Minogue, the organization’s executive director, said that while its mission coordinators do all the legwork to arrange the flights, it would not be possible if it weren’t for the hundreds of volunteers. “They donate their time, their talents and their aircraft,” said Minogue, a Massapequa resident. “Our motto is ‘Changing lives one flight at a time,’ and that’s exactly what they’re doing.”

Forming friendships in the air

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