Q: What is Vital Flight’s “A Special Day for Special Kids?”
A: Special Kids Day is a one day event, usually held around the first weekend in April. Our program gives children, especially those fighting serious illness, an opportunity for a free airplane ride. In addition, we will have gratis entertainment and refreshments available. Our goal is simple — to share the thrill of flying with children and their families and to give them relief from their daily struggles.
Q: What is the route that you fly?
A: We coordinate the route well in advance with both OPF ATCT and MIA TRACON. Generally, flights are 15-20 minutes in length plus taxi time and consist of roughly even time onshore (think I-95) and along the shoreline (just offshore). To assist with spacing, we usually ask pistons to fly the route at 100-110 knots to avoid spacing conflicts between faster/slower aircraft. Piston Twin and Turbine aircraft fly a different route, usually more offshore. OPF ATCT and MIA TRACON will provide the sequencing to the airport, so it’s possible that some flights flying slightly longer than others, but generally they are all about the same. With the possibility of POTUS TFRs, the event was moved in 2017 to OPF and we are still in the process of creating OPF routes for 2018 that optimize on the lessons learned last year. As a route example — for the past four or five years, we have been at BCT. There, assuming a southwesterly operation (Runway 23), the piston aircraft take off climb to 1,500, follow I-95 northbound to roughly abeam the Boynton inlet, turn east and begin a descent to 1,000 (to overfly the inlet), turn south down the shoreline just east of the shore [to give the participants a view of the beach] and proceed back to BCT for landing. In the event of a northeasterly operation (Runway 9), the route and altitudes are exactly opposite.
Q: Do you utilize the services of ATC during the event?
A: Yes. Local ATCT and TRACON are vital partners in this endeavour. They have, and continue to be, great supporters of what we do. We obtain static callsigns and transponder codes for each aircraft before the event begins and everyone remains in constant radio contact throughout the event. This partnership with ATC allows for us to fly as many families as efficiently as possible with minimum disruption to the existing non-event traffic at the airport.
Q: Does Signature charge any fees for aircraft participating in the event?
A: No. Signature has been a partner of Vital Flight’s to make this event a reality for the people of Boca Raton since the day they purchased Avitat. In continuing with the tradition, their sister base at OPF has opened their arms to us as Signature continues to set themselves apart as the leader in aviation services and corporate community responsibility. Their line staff works to assist with marshalling and servicing all event aircraft. Ramp fees are waived and fuel is discounted. In past years, we have had a donor who has given fuel to aircraft participating in the event, so it’s possible that even fuel is “provided” in certain cases.
Q: Is there a minimum age requirement for participants?
A: Yes. To comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety guidelines, ALL passengers must be at least 4 years old and weigh at least 40 pounds to fly with us during this event. The alleviates the need for a mandatory carseat.
Q: Are the children flying alone?
A: No. We require each special needs child to be accompanied by an adult parent or guardian who is capable of caring for any needs the child might have during the flight. This ensures that you can give full attention to the safe operation of the aircraft. If you feel that the behavior of the child prior to the flight precludes this, you have the right to refuse them boarding. We have ground volunteers available to assist in this case.
Q: Do entire families fly?
A: In some cases, yes. In other cases, no. Typically, the decision is made on a space and weight basis. If you tell us that you can accommodate 3 people for 400 pounds, we find the best load out of those present at the time to achieve that. We like to make sure that no seat flies empty unless necessary. The goal of this event is to fly as many special needs children as possible. While we would love to be able to fly the entire family along with the special needs child, we are not able do that and meet our goal with our limited volunteer resources. The families who register may list one extra family member on their registration as a standby passenger, who may be allowed to fly on a space available basis. We do not guarantee that these standby passengers will be able to fly.
Q: What type of aircraft are you looking for?
A: A flyable one. We have pilots who volunteer with their Cessna 172s all the way to Falcon/Lear/Citation/Challenger jets. We also have pilots who bring helicopters. Generally, something with three open seats or more is best, but we also have many families of two, so consider bringing a co-pilot if you’d like to participate but are uncomfortable alone.
If you have any other questions, you can contact us via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.