Off the Clock: McCutcheon Helps Those in Need with Angel Flight

Posted: March 10, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Erick Soricelli

In times of trouble or immediate need, finding medical help is not always available for those who seek it. Some may need treatment in another area but cannot afford commercial airline flights. That is where Mary McCutcheon steps in.

Visiting professor of anthropology, McCutcheon, a licensed pilot, is a member of Angel Flight, a charity organization of volunteer pilots who fly those needing medical attention to different areas of the country.

Piloting her own single-engine, four-seat Cessna 172, McCutcheon has completed 12 Angel Flights so far. In the process, she has met many kinds of people with numerous medical hardships. “There are some sad stories, happy stories, and mostly stories I never learn the endings of,” she says.

McCutcheon has been interested in flying since her teenage years. Several members of her family were also pilots at various times. At 17, she learned of a promotion by Cessna for a $5 introductory flight lesson, which she took. Then she proceeded to go to various airports, learning as much as she could about flying. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that she was licensed, after taking lessons at Manassas Aviation Center and instrument training at AvEd Flight School in Leesburg, Va.

“I rented planes whenever I needed to go places,” she says, “and on one trip to Asheville, N.C., I met a man who told me about Angel Flight.” She bought the Cessna she now owns in 2000.

The organization’s mid-Atlantic wing is based in Virginia Beach and sends out e-mails to its 500 volunteers with a list of flight needs. Approximately 20 Angel Flights per week pass through the mid-Atlantic region, McCutcheon says.

Among her patient flights, McCutcheon has had two newborn babies, one of whom went to Durham, N.C., with his mother to determine if he needed neonatal eye surgery. “He had some definite opinions about the trip,” she says. McCutcheon gave a ride to an entire family with a leukemia-stricken child who hoped to get home to Knoxville, Tenn. She also flew a woman back to New York City who had received treatment for smoke inhalation from the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

McCutcheon has been a visiting professor at George Mason since 1992 and holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Arizona. Before coming to Mason, she was a professor at the University of Guam and also worked at the Smithsonian Institution.

Mary McCutcheon with plane
Mary McCutcheon with her Cessna.
Courtesy Mary McCutcheon

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