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November 1, 1986 a corporate jet owned by Coca-Cola arrived at Elisabeth
City, North Carolina carrying the CEO and Acting President of the Word
Foundation and several members of the board of directors.
after they had left the airport for a meeting in town, a series of events
began to unfold which drove one man to create what we know today as Corporate
Angel Network or "Angel Flight".
Coast Guard Falcon 20 was beginning its takeoff roll at Elisabeth City
when it blew both front wheels causing the jet to veer off the runway and
run into a fence line. The jet was headed to Memphis, TN to pickup a little
girl by the name of Crystal Grant and carry her to Good Samaritans Children's
Hospital in Houston TX to under-go a liver transplant. The pilots of the
Coca-Cola plane watched the events and slowly began to hear the stories
about the jet's mercy mission. After a few hours the CEO and his passengers
returned to the airport and witnessed the scene and asked the pilots what
was going on. Once the CEO had learned of the situation he asked to be
taken to the Coast Guard Station so he could speak with the station commander.
Once there he asked him if there was anything he could offer or do. The
Commander said, in a frustrated voice, "Yeah, can you make miracles happen.
We need a jet and we need one fast." The CEO just smiled and said you've
got one and pointed to his company jet.
two hours the Coca-Cola jet was on it's way to Memphis and the situation
seemed under control. But unbeknownst to them a similar scene was playing
out in San Diego where the donor organ was being prepared for transport
to Houston. The aircraft lined up to take it to Houston had lost its ability
to pressurize its cabin and a similar scramble was under way to find a
went out and everyone made excuses from corporate CEO's to airlines managers
as to why they just couldn't help out. Once word made its way to Elisabeth
City the situation was reaching its last window of opportunity for the
surgeons. Time was now becoming an enemy.
the CEO of Coca-Cola was called upon to help out and he jumped on the phone
with his pilots now in Houston. They told him there was just no way they
could go and retrieve the organ and return to Houston in time for the operation
to take place. The CEO began to think and ponder what would be speedy
enough to retrieve it in time. A call was placed to the Governor of Georgia
and he then placed a call to the Governor of California requesting help.
that day sitting on the ramp at NAS Miramar were 6 brand new F/A-18A's
and 2 F/A-18B's (two-seaters) wearing the colors of the Blue Angels, as
the team prepared to debut them to the world on November 6. It only took
4 phone calls to reach the base commander and 2 more to reach the commander
of the "Blues." 1:55 minutes later, Navy Lt. Tony Less, in Blue Angel #
8, was gear up eastbound with his precious cargo strapped into the rear
Martin Baker ejection seat -- held in place by four dress belts.
to the family or anyone in Houston, while all of this was unfolding, the
local media had interviewed the little girl moments before she was placed
into the prepping room for her surgery. A reporter asked her if she was
scared. She responded, "No I'm not worried. My mommy told me that my Angel
will watch over me".
was an ironic statement indeed. At that moment Blue Angel #8 was coming
off an ANG tanker over Western New Mexico and making a mad dash for Houston.
clock was still ticking, and with each movement of the hand went further
against the surgeons. With only 90 minutes to spare, Angel #8 turned final
to Houston's Hobby Rwy 4L and rolled out to a stop surrounded by police
cars and an ambulance to rush the organ to the hospital.
sum up this story, the transplant was successful and Crystal returned home
to Memphis in time for Thanksgiving. The CEO of Coca-Cola lobbied the Fortune
100 companies to create Corporate Angel Network, the name inspired by the
Blue Angels. To this day Blue Angel #8 wears a small silhouette of an Angel
praying on the canopy rail and the name "Crystal" written underneath.
little over a month after the surgery the "Blues" made a planned detour
to Memphis to say hi to a little girl named Crystal. And it was on that
day, December 18, 1986, that Crystal met her Angel, the Angel who saved
was fourteen years ago. Today Crystal is 24 and every year she is personally
invited to attend a show near her home in Memphis as the guest of honor
So far, today,
I've done all right. I haven't gossiped or lost my temper.
I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, or self centered. I'm really
happy about that so far. But in a few minutes I'm going to be getting
out of bed and then I'm going to need a lot of help. Thank you!