One of the pilots is a local physician named William Dickson Schaefer, M.D., with Fayetteville Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Schaefer will be using his private Cessna-182 to deliver test specimens to Nashville, Tennessee for testing by a national laboratory.
Cape Fear Health says they use a private company for testing, as opposed to going to the state, because they can get quicker results; however, the private company does not offer commercial courier flights on the weekend.
With volunteers like Schaefer, they hope to change that for anxious patients and medical personnel.
"If you think you may have COVID, and it could potentially be fatal - it could make you pretty anxious," Schaefer said.
FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
On Saturday, Schaefer, who's been flying for around four years, will transport the 20 to 30 test kits to Asheville. There, another Angel Flight Soars' volunteer will deliver the items to the Nashville laboratory, cutting the testing time from two to three days to just 24 hours.
GOOD NEWS: @capefearvalley is teaming up with @angelflightsoar to deliver #COVID19 test kits to a facility in Nashville, TN on the weekends. This will cut a patient's wait time for results from 2-3 days to 24 hours. At 11, meet the local doctor helping fly the kits. @ABC11_WTVD pic.twitter.com/LZA29Mx6rI— Michael Lozano (@MLozanoABC11) April 17, 2020
"Instead of getting a result on Friday night on Tuesday, we can fly them out on a Saturday and get them back on Sunday," Schaefer added.
The physician tells ABC11 that means more real-time negative and positive cases, less PPE used, and most importantly: easing the worry of everyone involved.
Concern that Schaefer says his daughter, who's a nurse in the baby unit of a local hospital, is always dealing with.
"There are a lot of general aviation pilots who are looking for a reason to fly and would like to help the community with our hobby," Schaefer said.
Angel Flights Soars' volunteers are helping hospitals all across the southeast region.
The organization has been coordinating free flights for patients needing life-changing medical treatments, as well as offering essential medical transports during emergencies for 37 years.
With Schaefer's office seeing a major decrease in patients because of current guidelines, he's happy to be lending a helping hand.
"I don't really treat patients with coronavirus, so it's nice that, while I can't work, at least I can do something to help with the case," Schaefer said.
Cape Fear Valley Health says Schaefer will leave for Asheville to deliver the first round of test kits to make it to Nashville's airport the same day, where the courier service will pick up the specimens.