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Volunteer pilots help in battle against COVID-19

Pilots stand in front of an aircraft





Civil Air Patrol Capt. Rick Block; Civil Air Patrol Capt. Ryan Nelson (USDA NRCS wetland engineer, Nacogdoches, Texas) load lab samples in Sugar Land to be flown to Austin for testing.

In Nacogdoches, Texas, volunteer pilots have taken rotating shifts to climb into a Cessna 172 — a single-engine plane that once could seat four people — and fly it loaded with COVID19 test samples from Nacogdoches to either Tyler or Sugar Land, then to Austin and back to the Pineywoods.
Civil Air Patrol Capt. Rick Block; Civil Air Patrol Capt. Ryan Nelson (USDA NRCS wetland engineer located in Nacogdoches, Texas); along with 1st Lt. Arlie Conner and squadron commander Capt. Lucinda McFarlin, have made the flights from Nacogdoches.
Typically, they’re given half a day’s notice to arrange the flights, and they make three flights a week. The pilots depart the airport around 5 p.m. and make the 30- to 40-minute flight to Sugar Land or Tyler.
A state worker then delivers and loads the samples, and the pilot takes off for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where another state worker collects the coolers.
To date, the Texas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol has transported 34,055 samples. Using the CAP to move the samples means faster testing and keeping the samples viable.
“As a veteran, I miss serving my country during emergencies, so I’d like to thank God for letting me be a part of this effort,” Nelson said. “I also give credit to my commander and the officers above me for organizing and leading these unique opportunities to volunteer. I’m just one of many volunteer pilots for Civil Air Patrol, many of which have flown many more of these missions and sacrificed more than myself. I just feel very fortunate to be a part of this team.”

This edited story was provided in part by an article that was published on June 26, 2020, courtesy of The Daily Sentinel by Tim Monzingo (