By Marilyn Miller
When a child tells a parent, “It was my goal to follow my dad,” does Dad’s throat suddenly close up and tears just as hurriedly appear?
Dad’s chin was in his chest, so there was no way to discern that, but Brian Still had to have felt like he was flying in the clouds…Oh, wait a minute! Brian Still does fly in the clouds. And so does his 20-year-old son, Parker Still, who spoke those endearing words.
Today, the father and son team own three Cessna four-place (seats) airplanes, single engine, three combined (in airplane speak), two of which are housed in a hangar at the Minden Airport. A third is located off a grass runway on the Still’s cattle ranch in Taylor, LA. “It’s a hobby we are REALLY into,” Brian quipped, his son nodding his head in agreement.
Brian spent his summers in high school working on a cotton farm in Greenville, MS. The farmer who owned the place was also a crop duster. Imagine a boy of 15 getting into the middle of that. “I fell in love with it and on my 16th birthday I flew my first solo flight. On my 17th birthday, I got my license.”
Fast-forward 30 years, and Brian has logged 2,500 hours in the air, licensed on commercial, multi-engine instrument-rated planes.
Back when he and his wife, Barbara, started their family, the kids started flying “aboard” small airplanes while still in diapers. So Parker was hooked early. He was only 15 when he began putting flying hours into a log book. Then he followed his dad with the solo and license coming on his 16th and 17th birthdays, respectively. But he went a step further and earned his instructor’s license on a single engine airplane. Today he has 900 hours in the air, and he has trained 10 students for their solo flights and three more are now private pilots. But by the end of the year, that number will double, Parker believes.
Some students are just looking to fly solo, he explained, not to become licensed. Why? Because flying is not cheap. Parker recommends that someone “thinking about” flying check out the costs that are involved both short and long-term first.
Ever the entrepreneur, Parker also rents two planes at Minden Airport for instruction. All this and he is still a full-time student at Louisiana Tech University majoring in Aviation Management, with a minor in Business Administration. He is owner/operator of “Still Flying” (instructor), is a member of the Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, and is affiliated with “Pilots for Patients.”
Brian is the fulltime owner/operator of Timberland Services in Taylor and a cattle rancher. Their family, which includes daughter, Landrie, 18, and younger son, Nolan, 15, are members of the First Baptist Church in Minden, where Brian serves on the Missions Committee. He helps performing mission work both in the U.S. and abroad. He is active with the Webster Men of Courage. A 1999 graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Agricultural Business, he is also affiliated with “Pilots for Patients.”
“PILOTS FOR PATIENTS”
Five men from Minden are currently pilots for the “Pilots for Patients” organization, which is headquartered in Monroe. Albert Tucker, Jr., Daniel Blell (a professional pilot for the airlines), Brian Still, Parker Still, and Dustin Howell have flown nearly 350 “missions” for PFP. Over the past six years, these pilots have used their own resources and time to fly (non-emergency) patients to treatments in a 350-mile radius of the 69 small airports in Louisiana. Some 255 of those missions served people in Minden (including the Bossier, Homer and Springhill areas).
Altogether, “Pilots for Patients” has flown 7,180 missions since 2008, for a total of 2.6 million nautical miles, said Kari Barnett, Marketing & Event coordinator.
Founder and president of PFP, Philip M. Thomas, flew over 200 missions for another patient flight company before he began to realize that Louisiana was not being fairly served. In 2007, he began to pray about starting his own operation. God answered his prayers and in 2008, “Pilots for Patients” took off, working from a hangar in Monroe.
A typical flight is within 350 miles, Kari said, although “We will link with sister organizations to fly up to 1,000 nautical miles.” A total of 75 percent of the flights from this state are bound for M.D. Anderson in Houston, but many of the pilots take patients to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
PFP is “patient driven,” Kari explained. With a five-day lead time, a patient calls or emails in a request for transportation to a treatment facility, and the coordinators in Monroe get the ball rolling. Handling logistics, with Kari’s help, is Mission Coordinator Stacey Hutto.
Most of the patients are “financially strapped” and can’t afford meals once they get to their destinations. There are other ground costs as well. That’s why the community is so important. The largest fund-raiser for PFP is the “Prop Blast” which takes place Sept. 16 at the ULM Bayou Pointe Event Center in Monroe. The activities help raise money for recruitment and the gift bags that patients receive. “Pilots for Patients” is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
MINDEN AIRPORT FLY-IN
There are 140 active pilots flying for PFP currently, but more are always needed! That is why the AirRunners Fly-In will take place again during the Spring of 2024 at the Minden Airport. Coordinators Molly Fowler, Parker Still and Landon Wilhite hope to raise funds to help with recruitment, etc. For information on sponsorships, flight instruction, and more, call 371-7862 and you’ll be directed to the right party.