He saw a tiny ad in an aviation magazine that set him on his giving-back-to-the-community path that led to the sky and the most rewarding flights of his life.
Basie Spies is a semi-retired gynecological surgeon based in Yorkton, Saskatchewan who just happens to be a pilot and now volunteers with Hope Air to bring remotely located patients to the medical care they need in a bigger centre.
When he answered the ad he had a long chat with Dave McElroy, who is chief pilot for this year’s Give Hope Wings 2022 expedition, an event to raise funds and awareness for Hope Air. Spies knew this type of volunteerism was perfect for him both as a physician and pilot of a 1958 Beechcraft Bonanza.
Spies was hooked from his very first Hope Air flight to get a remotely located patient to the help he needed to prevent blindness.
“This charity work is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life,” Spies said. “It’s really humbling. It is very emotional and really rewarding at the same time. The man I flew back and forth from his home three times - he couldn’t believe it and was beside himself with happiness that someone was helping him for free.”
Spies discovered his passion for flying in 1995 and decided to join the Give Hope Wings 2022 campaign this year to raise awareness and funds for Hope Air because he knows some physicians aren’t even aware of the program that offers flights for patients in financial need who must travel far from home for their medical care. The goal this year is to raise $1 million to provide 2,859 flights.
This year’s Give Hope Wings campaign sees pilots travel Canada for the Coast to Coast Expedition which is a multi-aircraft series of flights consisting of two stages from Victoria, BC to Toronto, ON to St. John’s, NL and ending at the COPA Convention in Montreal later this month.
The expedition’s Tuesday morning stop was made at the Prince George airport with McElroy and Spies and several other pilots on hand at the event geared to raise awareness.
“I challenge all medical professionals to donate to Hope Air,” Spies said. “We need more people involved. It’s a very important cause.”
Hope Air bridges the gap between home and hospital to make sure everyone in need has access to necessary healthcare.
Last year there were more than 4,000 flights provided in Canada, with 1,700 of those from Prince George alone, the highest number of flights out of one city in BC and so far this year there have already been more than 400 Hope Air flights from Prince George.
“I’ve been in Saskatchewan for 26 years and aviation is my hobby and I’m semi-retired now so I was looking for something to do,” Spies said. “So I’ve been involved with Hope Air for a while and just want to spread the word – I’m a physician and I hadn’t heard of Hope Air before I volunteered for them. So that’s my mission – to spread the word about Hope Air and get people in need to medical care. I have spent my whole career helping patients and now I can help them even more in another way, which is fantastic.”
The three-weeks-long expedition will see volunteer pilots fly 5,100 nautical miles across Canada to raise awareness about Hope Air’s mission.