Pilots flew 176 missions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 2015


When Rosalyn Sales agreed several weeks ago to do a Rotary program in Andalusia yesterday, she had no idea how somber the occasion would be.

Sales is the public relations director for the Monroeville-based Pilots for Christ, which provides specialized aviation transportation for those who are physically unable to travel by other means.

Less than two weeks ago, the organization flew Megan Kelley home to Andalusia, and Sales planned to open her presentation with a video about that flight.

She did. But the presentation was more poignant because Kelley, who successfully battled Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2013 and 2014, had earned her own angel wings just a few hours before. She had been battling leukemia, a side effect of the chemo which cured her of her first cancer, since last fall.

Sales read some thoughts she recorded after making that flight with Megan and her mother, Donna Kelley, sharing what it meant to her to “sit and cry and laugh and spend quality time with amazingly brave young lady.”

“It is a sad day in this community, but we know that she’s healed,” Sales said. “It’s just hard for us to understand as human beings.”

The Alabama chapter of Pilots for Christ began in 1994, and for many years averaged 20 flights per year.

Sales, and her husband, Johnny Sales, learned more about the organization in their hometown when Johnny Sales needed a liver transplant.

Ironically, it was Johnny Sales’ lifelong friend, but also his biggest competitor, Tommy Lee, who started the Alabama chapter of PFC. Sales owned the Monroeville Ford dealership; PFC founder Lee owned the competing Lee Motors.

Both men have since sold their businesses, and pretty much work fulltime with PFC, Rosalyn Sales said.

Last year, PFC flew 176 flights and had more than $700,000 in contributions.

“We came in to help Pilots for Christ because we felt led to it,” Sales said. “We had never seen such compassion and what an awesome thing to do to help people.”

Fundraising includes speaking to churches, civic organizations, writing grants, and conducting fundraisers, she said.

“That’s so important to all of this,” she said. “When you get a call as important as we got that Wednesday night from a friend who said, ‘Can you help them? Can you get Megan home?

“I will never tell a mama or daddy or wife or husband or aunt or uncle, ‘No, I’m sorry. We don’t have enough money.’ God’s people are not gong to let this happen.”

The PFC team also has told their story to negotiate reduced fuel costs and to get landing fees waived.

“Dealing with an airplane is a very expensive proposition,” she said. “It’s amazing how everybody comes together to help and support this ministry so that needs are met.”

The Alabama organization covers a 350-mile radius. They also partner with individuals and corporations that own aircraft, like PowerSouth.

“This year, we built a network of planes and pilots, and made incredible friendships,” she said. “One is PowerSouth. They’re bringing some people home for us tomorrow. If they’re going in our direction or anywhere close, they make an effort to help us.”

Sales said there are 19 other PFC chapters throughout the nation, but collectively, they don’t fly as many flights as the local chapter.

“One of our favorite things is to say our biggest asset is the favor of God,” Sales said. “What we’re doing is for His glory. Being able to show God’s love – being there for Donna that day, or for any mom, or any friend that we fly – is what’s important.”

At present, in addition to its scheduled work, Pilots for Christ currently is on call for three people waiting for transplants – including a kidney, heart and lung patient.

Contributions to Pilots for Christ may be mailed to P.O. Box 22927, Jackson, MS 39225-2927.