RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — LifeLine is based in Peoria, but they have a network of 350 pilots who have completed 650 flights across ten Midwestern states. For one pilot from Urbana, this line of work is a family tradition.
“When I was a little boy growing up, I liked airplanes and I built model airplanes and did remote control airplanes and things like that,” said Andy Facer, who flies for Lifeline Pilots.
Andy Facer hails from Urbana, but now lives in Savoy. He flies his planes out of Rantoul. He started flying at a young age, and said that on top of his fascination with planes, his dad was a big influence.
“He was worried if something happened to him while I was on board or the family was on board,” Facer said. “He wanted someone to be able to get the airplane back on the ground. So I was flying this airplane when I was 16 or 17.”
His father also introduced him to LifeLine Pilots.
“Kind of father like son,” Facer said. “I saw what he was doing, and how that was helping people.”
LifeLine takes people, who may have a disability or are sick, to hospitals that are too far or too expensive for them to reach. They got off the ground in 1981. All Lifeline Pilots give their time, gas and airplanes to the cause. Passengers don’t pay a dime.
Facer followed in his dad’s footsteps about five years ago.
“When I got to a point in my life, financially and experience-wise in the airplane where I could do that, I wanted to do that too.”
Facer said his son is also a pilot. Once he gets enough hours in the plane, his son may carry on the tradition. He said it’s something he’ll continue to do for as long as he can.
“I say this to people all the time: our passengers are almost universally very grateful and thankful, and that’s sweet, but I’m doing it for them,” Facer said. “And then if I’m helping them in some small way, that enriches me more than the money ever would.”
LifeLine saved passengers a total of $1.7 million in flight costs. They plan on increasing their flights to 1,500 per year by 2027. Donations to Lifeline Pilots can be made at lifelinepilots.org by clicking the “Donate Now” button.