TJ Kim, a 16-year old is working to achieve a student pilot’s certificate, and doing some good too.
The young Kim is a sophomore at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. His campus had to close for the year because of the ongoing pandemic. His lacrosse season was ended abruptly and his studies came to a halt. The school still urges students to do academic work at home, and also to help others.
“At Landon School, community service is really emphasized,” the 16-year-old said. “And so I wanted to find a way to serve.”
Kim found out about seven critical small, rural hospitals with inadequate supplies to treat coronavirus patients, with the help of his family.
“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about. Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals,” Kim told the AP.
The hospitals are far away from any large cities but Kim devised a means to give help anyway.
“In my flight training, we’re in a stage that’s called cross-country flights, which means flights that are more than 50 miles.”
A Cessna doesn’t require a particularly long landing strip, and though relatively inexperienced in the cockpit, Kim, with the help of his instructor started to make deliveries from an airport in Maryland.
“We hop in the plane and we go. Flying is the easy part. Collecting supplies is what makes the process a week long.”
Kim named his project “Operation SOS.” It stands for “supplies over skies.” He keeps in touch with the hospitals throughout the week to find out what they need. His father helps to coordinate the donation of supplies: gloves, masks, gowns and other essential equipment like shoe covers and protective eyewear.
Kim loads up the plane on the day for delivery and goes over his flight plan.
“My flight instructor makes me chart things the old school way. We have to set benchmarks, set course headings, calculate adjustments for winds.”
Kim who is still a student, was a mild-mannered, all-American boy before he got into the aviation industry. Now, though still a young man, he has a high purpose.