Passion for the friendly skies fosters international service partnerships

By PDG Michael Graves MD CFIG, member of Rotary Club of Plainview, TX, USA, and World President of International Fellowships of Flying Rotarians (IFFR)

PDG Michael Graves returning to Texas after a cross-country flight
PDG Michael Graves returning to Texas after a cross-country flight

Summer of 1990 found me in Washington and Oregon with my young family and some new friends.  Those new friends, International Fellowships of Flying Rotarians (IFFR) members from all over the world, became part of my larger family.  That international family inspired me to realize some personal dreams with family flights the next year to Barrow, Alaska and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ocean-crossings followed, first to France, later to New Zealand and Australia.  Adventures with fellow Rotarians in Europe and Africa and Asia came to be recorded in my logbooks.

IIFR members left to right:  Karen Hicks (Texas, USA); Tilo Holighaus (Germany) - glider manufacturer;  PDG Michael Graves (Texas, USA);  Bob Mercier (Alaska, USA) - Alaska chairman and search and rescue pilot
IFFR members left to right: Karen Hicks (Texas, USA); Tilo Holighaus (Germany) – glider manufacturer; PDG Michael Graves (Texas, USA); Bob Mercier (Alaska, USA) – Alaska chairman and search and rescue pilot

This enthusiastic new IFFR member offered aviation support to his Rotary district’s world community service projects in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental.  Weeks before Christmas in 1990 we landed on a dirt strip 7500 feet above sea level with a plane load of Christmas presents.  Father Luis VerPlanchen accepted the gifts for the Tarahumara children and proudly showed us the clinic, hospital and church he had built.  The hospital had a broken X-ray generator which my mentor Ted Holder figured we could replace.

Two months later we again landed on that mountaintop runway, delivering the equipment that restored diagnostic radiology to Creel.  En route to that stop, we landed on a grass runway in Madera to say hello to dedicated Rotarians in that community and to offer them some used defibrillators we had been given when we purchased the radiology equipment.  Six weeks later I received a letter from Madera Rotary club president, Dr. Victor Yanez.  He explained that thanks to our gift, two of seven patients, carried into the local hospitals with no pulse, had been able to walk out. Yanez’s letter affirmed the rewards of service that we who share Rotary and aviation can offer.

IFFR

The International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians (IFFR) is a group of Rotarians dedicated to promoting Rotary and aviation as an opportunity for fellowship and service. With widespread geographical locations, the goal of Flying Rotarians helps to achieve the furtherance of the ideals and objectives of Rotary International throughout the world. Hundreds of events have been held over the years in nearly all of the sixty countries of the world in which Flying Rotarians reside. Members often donate their time, funds and aircraft to supply remote areas with medical, dental, optical and surgical services.

Be sure to check out the IFFR Membership Video to learn more about this Rotary Fellowship!

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