Mercy Flights--America's first
not-for-profit air ambulance service--was created in 1949 in direct
response to the polio epidemic and medical transportation problems in
Southern Oregon and Northern California. At that time, two small general
hospitals provided basic medical care for the community of 17,000
residents. The nearest specialty hospitals for injuries and more complex
care were in Eugene (167 miles), Portland (274 miles), and San
Francisco (363 miles). Since the Interstate Highway System had not yet
been built, these distances were very slowly traveled on two-lane roads.
George Milligan, a young air traffic controller--and a pilot
himself--mobilized the community to create Mercy Flights and recruited
volunteer pilots and nurses to staff the service. The story of Mercy
Flights is a grassroots account of heroism, service, creativity,
tenacity, and strong community leadership.