Dr. Lynn Welling, Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center's chief medical officer, flew a number of critical missions during his time as a pilot. From operating light attack planes with the U.S. Navy to providing on-scene medical support to law enforcement and search and rescue teams, Welling has logged hundreds of flight hours.
However, among his most important missions was getting an 8-year-old boy and his sister, both living with life-threatening illnesses, to camp.
"He was so excited, I could barely keep him belted in his seat," says Dr. Welling. "During the flight, he discovered that blowing into the headset microphone created a popping sound. I listened to that sound for at least an hour and a half. Every time I looked back at him, he had a big grin on his face."
Like his young passenger, the thrill of flying is what first drew Dr. Welling to aviation and keeps him in the air, now as a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight, which provides free air transportation for patients with medically related needs who are in financial distress or time-critical, non-emergency situations.
"I have been flying for years, primarily for recreation and transportation, but I had a feeling there was more potential for me," Dr. Welling says. "I explored different options and found Angel Flight. I felt their mission — getting patients to doctors when they don't have any other way — was a worthy one to which I wanted to contribute."
Dr. Welling's love for aviation began in the Navy, which he joined to become a doctor. He had a training obligation to fulfill before he could attend medical school. After intense naval aviator training, he became a carrier-based A-7E light attack plane pilot.
"My experience as a Navy pilot was the first time I truly loved a job because it took all my physical and mental capabilities working together," he says. "My work as a doctor is similar. If I don't perform to my highest capability, the outcome could be catastrophic. The intensity of that responsibility is thrilling and satisfying."
Dr. Welling has flown three missions with Angel Flight and looks forward to more.
"Flying is the best of all worlds. On beautiful days, it's peaceful and calming. On days made challenging by weather or difficult flight plans and maneuvers, it's the thrill of successful completion. It's a sport, a means of transportation and a way to provide a service to others," he says. "The views are pretty spectacular, too."