Bob Oglesby’s dad is a pilot and his son is a commercial pilot, but it wasn’t until much later in life that Oglesby moved into the cockpit and learned to fly.
He always had an interest in flying and even flew some with his dad. In 1994, when Oglesby felt like he could afford the cost of getting his pilot’s license, he turned to his son. “My son was my instructor. He’s the one who taught me to fly,” Oglesby said.
Oglesby, who described himself as “semi-retired,” went in with a few others to buy an airplane and in 1999 made his first flight.
“I wanted to be able to use that airplane to help people out,” Oglesby said.
Bob Oglesby looks back at his passengers Karenina and her daughter Juliana. Oglesby was a part of an Angel Flight mission transporting the mother and daughter from Stafford, Va., to their home in Winston-Salem.
Not long after buying the plane Oglesby found a way to do just that when he attended an Angel Flight orientation near Winston-Salem. Angel Flight is a non-profit organization that helps coordinate volunteer pilots with patients needing transport in order to receive specialized medical care.
Soon after the orientation, Oglesby learned about the N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM) aviation ministry. NCBM works with Angel Flight and also coordinates a fuel fund to assist pilots in making flights. Individuals, churches and other groups may donate to the fund.
With help from the fuel fund, Oglesby is able to fly about once a month with Angel Flight. “I do it because I enjoy flying and I want to share that with others. I want to use that resource to help other people,” he said.
Oglesby usually flies in North Carolina or to neighboring states, such as South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. He and other volunteer pilots can see from the Angel Flight website the available flights and then sign up for the ones they are willing to take.
All the flights are unique, as each passenger is unique, and Oglesby prays with each passenger. Sometimes he flies with people expecting a good report from a check up with a cancer specialist. “Those are some of the really good flights,” he said.
Other flights are not as easy, as Oglesby has transported cancer patients who eventually lose their battle with the disease. Oglesby shared about a recent flight that was particularly unique – and humbling. His task was to help transport Captain Greg Amira from Beaufort, S.C., to Winchester, Va.
Steve Purello, President/CEO of Mercy Flight Southeast, flew Amira from Beaufort to Winston-Salem, and from there Oglesby flew him the rest of the way.
Oglesby was scheduled to fly into Winchester, but he planned to reroute to nearby Martinsburg, W.Va., when he learned the Winchester airport was closing early. Just 15 minutes into the flight to Martinsburg, air traffic control alerted Oglesby that the Martinsburg air show had experienced a fatal crash. The airport was closed and Oglesby would need to reroute again. Oglesby turned his sights to Front Royal, Va., a small airport near Winchester.
“Captain Amira was dog tired when he got on the plane. He slept the whole way,” Oglesby said.
Amira was in Beaufort that day participating in a Wounded Warriors event. Amira was wounded while serving in Iraq when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device.
Amira served in the United States Army until he went on the reserved list and went to work as a vice president for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center.
When the first tower was hit on Sept. 11, 2001, Amira left his office in the second tower and went to help the victims. He was injured while trying to help people escape, and a fireman had to help him out of the building after it collapsed.
While waiting for help, Amira was buried in rubble after the second tower collapsed. It took rescue workers hours to get him out.
A few years after 9/11 the Army reactivated Amira because they wanted him to help supervise special projects. He served less than one year before getting injured.
“Helping transport Captain Amira was a distinct honor and privilege,” Oglesby said. “He is an American hero.”