2015 Pioneer Hall of Fame
In 1981, Priscilla "Pat" Blum and cofounder Jay Weinberg created the Corporate Angel Network (CAN). CAN is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit charity that arranges free air travel for cancer patients, traveling to and from recognized specialized treatment centers, using the empty seats made available by some 580 participating companies on board their corporate jet aircraft during routine business travel schedules.
As a cancer survivor, and therefore personally experienced with all of the trials and hardships associated with the disease, Pat reached out to a business friend and fellow cancer survivor, Jay Weinberg, with a novel idea and a vision. She hoped to provide many thousands of cancer patients the opportunity to travel to their distant treatment centers on board corporate aircraft at no charge to the patient.
Pat, a GA pilot and Piper Comanche owner who based her airplane at Westchester County airport (HPN), was always amazed at the volume of corporate jets landing and departing with only one or two passengers on board. It prompted her to ask the companies operating these aircraft if they would consider helping a cancer patient fly to his or her treatment center when their airplane and the patient were headed to the same destination on the same day.
She and Jay spent countless hours discussing all of the many facets of their vision of helping cancer patients travel to life saving treatment with no hassle, no crowds, in a dignified and comfortable environment, hosted by people who would care enough to offer their available empty seats at no charge to cancer patients.
Consulting with another HPN-based friend, Leonard Greene, owner and president of Safe Flight Instrument Company, resulted in the launch of their new aviation charity on December 22, 1981. Michael Burnett, an 18-year-old cancer patient, flew on board Leonard's King Air 200 from HPN to Wayne County Airport in Detroit after his treatment at New York's Sloan Kettering.
Located in two small offices provided by Champion Corporation in the company's HPN hangar as its initial headquarters, the fledgling organization continued to knock on corporate flight department doors in its tireless quest to sign up new participants.
In 1982, CAN logged just 23 cancer patient flights. With increasing demand for CAN services, Pat moved the office in 1985 to a larger, more permanent facility. Five short years later a record 650 patient flights for the year were completed. A doubling of the office space at HPN in 1993 helped the dream and vision continue to grow. In 1998, CAN celebrated 10,000 total patient flights with more than 500 participating companies donating their time, aircraft, and crews to the CAN mission.
Pat retired in 2000 at age 80, and her idea and vision continue today-33 years and 46,000 cancer patients later. Her vision of helping bring thousands of cancer patients closer to their cure has been a marvelous success. Today, CAN arranges 225 to 250 patient flights every month, almost 3,000 per year, with 580 corporations participating. Pat's work continues, as does her dream.
Phoebe Omlie (1902-1975)
An excerpt from the book Walking on Air: The Aerial Adventures of Phoebe Omlie by Janann Sherman, WAI 6930.
Aviation pioneer Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie was once one of the most famous women in America. In the 1930s, her words and photographs were splashed across the front pages of newspapers across the nation. The press labeled her "second only to Amelia Earhart among America's women pilots," and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt named her among the "eleven women whose achievements make it safe to say that the world is progressing."
Phoebe began her career in the early 1920s when aviation was unregulated and open to those daring enough to take it on, male or female. She earned the first commercial pilot certificate issued to a woman and became a successful air racer. During the New Deal, she became the first woman to hold an executive position in federal aeronautics. In 1920, the Des Moines, Iowa, native bought herself a Curtiss JN-4D airplane and began learning how to fly and perform stunts with her future husband, pilot Vernon Omlie. She danced the Charleston on the top wing, hung by her teeth below the plane, and performed parachute jumps in the Phoebe Fairgrave Flying Circus.
Deanie and Nancy Parrish
From the day Nancy Parrish invited her mom Deanie Parris, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who flew the B-29, to join her, this mother-daughter team has voluntarily worked for the past 16 years to share the untold history of the WASP "in as many ways and as many different formats as possible."
Beginning with a few pages of Deanie's WASP scrapbook in 1996, Nancy created www.WingsAcrossAmerica.us/wasp, the WASP on the Web, and has grown the website to more than 2,000 pages of valuable WASP resources, photos, songs, videos, and games for kids including WASP paper dolls. In 1998, they began Wings Across America. Their mission was to interview WASP and share their overlooked history. The pair traveled to 19 states, interviewing on digital video more than 100 WASP in their own homes.
They founded the National WASP WWII Museum at Avenger Field, where the WASP trained, in 2003. The team then designed and created the exhibits. Nancy served as the volunteer executive director for three years with Deanie serving as board member and facilities chairman.
In 2005, the two led a successful campaign for the Texas WASP to be inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. And in 2007, they created an extensive Fly Girls of WWII WASP exhibit, which was on display at the Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C., for almost two years and is now a permanent exhibit in the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Michigan.
Other team projects include an original WASP rap, "We Got the Stuff, the Right Stuff," which tells the entire history of the WASP, marching songs, history cards, and a mosaic featuring the faces of every WASP. In 2008, Deanie initiated and pursued the goal to honor the WASP with the Congressional Gold Medal. Nancy began growing the electronic presence of the WASP online, spearheading the successful grassroots campaign.
In 2010, Nancy completed an illustrated book WASP in Their Own Words, featuring quotes from 130 WASP and faces of every WASP. She gave copies to each WASP at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony and sent copies to those who were interviewed but not present at the ceremony. In 2011, Nancy designed an electronic WASP kiosk for the National Women's Museum in Dallas, Texas, and has since created the first WASP app, as well as a second Fly Girls exhibit.
They continue to share WASP obituaries and information on WASP events, keeping WASP and their supporters informed and engaged.