Jary McKay has been flying for more than 40 years, but the thrill of flight shows no sign of wearing off. Few flights are as special to her, however, as the mercy missions she flies as a member of Angel Flight.
Angel Flight is a group of pilots providing free air transportation on private aircraft for people with health problems, such as cancer or kidney disorders. The patients are either financially needy or unable to travel by other means because of their condition. McKay also coordinates the service one week out of six from the group's office at Santa Monica Airport.
McKay, who says she is "over 65," has been flying ever since her University of Michigan days, when someone told her not to join the glider club because it was too dangerous. "I joined the club and learned to fly a single seat glider without an instructor," she said.
That was the beginning of her flying hobby, but McKay knew she probably couldn't get a job flying, so she learned shorthand. Eventually she developed a career as a technical writer. She's been married twice, has three daughters (none of them pilots) and four grandchildren.
During World War II, McKay joined the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, whose fliers delivered new airplanes, such as the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-39 Cobra, from the factory to the military. Thirty-five women died flying those new planes, and one of them was her best friend. "I was scared to death," she recalls.
She enjoys being around pilots. "You never hear pilots gripe. They're flexible and adventuresome. And the Angel Flight pilots are especially terrific, because they volunteer their time and absorb all the costs."
Angel Flight is located at 3237 Terminal Building No. 17, Santa Monica Airport. All referrals for medical missions come from social agencies. Membership in Angel Flight is not limited to pilots. For information, call (213) 390-2958.