By Denise Dillon
Published April 22, 2020
Coronavirus in Georgia
FOX 5 Atlanta

CARTERSVILLE, Ga – Phoenix Air, based in Cartersville, has been flying medical missions non-stop for the past month. They’re transporting critically ill American citizens who have COVID-19 back to the US.

“We’re the only company in the world that can transport highly contagious patients,” said Dent Thompson, Sr. Vice President of Phoenix Air.

Go to Fox 5 Video


Cartersville, GA – 30 October 2017 – Phoenix Air Group, Inc., providing world-wide Air Ambulance and Aviation services for more than 25 years, pursued NAAMTA Medical Transport Accreditation for several reasons, two of which are:

  • NAAMTA Accreditation criteria and processes reflect the highest and best quality measures pertaining to all areas of medical transport services.
  • NAAMTA Accreditation is required for government, and military contracts. Such as contracts issued by the Department of State, Department of Defense, Air Mobility Command, and the Department Veteran Affairs. Phoenix Air Group has been supplying military and government entities since 1978 and identify with additional support our accreditation provides.

See Press Release Here

Date: October 26, 2017
Contact: Dent Thompson
770-387-2999, ext. 106

Cartersville, GA – Phoenix Air Group, Inc., headquartered at the Cartersville-Bartow County Airport, has been named the U.S. Department of State’s recipient of its 2017 Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s citation reads “In recognition of exceptional customer commitment and innovation while providing the Bureau of Medical Services, Directorate of Operational Medicine with outstanding aviation services in complex and challenging environments.”

The U.S. Government considers any company with less than 1,500 employees as a Small Business.  Phoenix Air currently has 220 employees and has been a prime contractor for the State Department since August 2014.  This is the company’s first time receiving a nationally-recognized award for its work for the U.S. Government.

“Although we have held contracts with many U.S. Government departments and agencies over the past two decades, this is the first time we have been singled out for a top national award among the thousands of small businesses that have contracts with the government,” stated Dent Thompson, Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at Phoenix Air.  “It all goes back to the Ebola crisis in Western Africa in July of 2014 when the State Department’s Office of Operational Medicine approached us to transport several American doctors and nurses who were near death with Ebola virus disease from Africa back to the United States for advanced treatment.”

“We had several years earlier developed an airborne contagious disease bio-containment system we could install in our Gulfstream jets, enabling for the first time highly contagious patients with any type of disease to be safely transported long distances while protecting the medical crew and pilots onboard the aircraft from the disease,” Thompson explained.

The State Department immediately placed Phoenix Air under a contract and between August 2014 and May 2015 Phoenix Air made over 40 flights from Western Africa to specialty treatment hospitals in Europe and the United States, saving many lives and giving medical professionals working in Africa assurance of a “lifeboat” home for treatment should they contract a deadly disease.

After the Ebola epidemic was brought under control, the State Department expanded Phoenix Air’s contracted role to include international fast response air ambulance services from full-time bases the company operates in Cartersville, GA, as well as Western and Eastern Africa.  Each of the three bases includes a specially modified Gulfstream medevac jet with pilots and medical crewmembers on call 24/7 to assist U.S. Government employees who are sick or injured in some of the most inhospitable places on earth.  “It’s not unusual for our teams to fly into countries like Niger, Central African Republic, South Sudan or Somalia to pick up Americans working there under some harsh and dangerous conditions,” stated Dr. Michael Flueckiger, Phoenix Air’s Medical Director.

In June of this year, Dr. Flueckiger volunteered for a very sensitive State Department mission – to fly into Pyongyang, North Korea on a Phoenix Air medical jet and remain overnight or longer to advocate for the release of college student Otto Warmbier.  Warmbier was arrested while vacationing in North Korea in March 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.  Shortly after his incarceration in a notorious Pyongyang prison, he fell into a non-responsive coma for unknown reasons.

Dr. Flueckiger and two U.S. State Department officials landed in Pyongyang on a Phoenix Air medical jet and remained there while the jet flew back to Japan to wait on their report.  The trio met several times with a North Korean government medical committee and later the government court which convicted Warmbier 15 months earlier.  They secured his release.  After being taken onto the Phoenix Air medevac jet at Pyongyang Airport later that day, Warmbier was flown back to Ohio to his family where he died a week later.

Phoenix Air’s dedicated employees continue to serve the U.S. Government and American citizens around the world under its State Department contract.  “All of our employees are highly dedicated to the important work we have been given, and each day certainly brings new and complex challenges for all of us,” explained Mark Thompson, President of Phoenix Air.  “It’s not only our employees, but their family members back home and our colleagues in the government supporting the complex missions we undertake.”

It’s for this type of work over the past three years that Phoenix Air was named the recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award.

By Linda Solomon and Amy Schmidt


Amy Schmidt and I departed Aug. 31st. for a relaxing week on St. Maarten.  I’ve spent many vacations in this island paradise over the years with family and friends.  Our hotel, the Flamingo Resort is one of the most beautiful locations on the island, featuring palm frond covered palapas and beach lounges at no extra charge. The resort faces due west and we are treated to spectacular sunsets every evening. A restaurant on the beach serves food and drinks just a few feet away. I snorkel each day with hundreds of fish just a hundred yards off shore (and no sharks).

The first few days were ideal, driving the island sharing my favorite places with Amy. Some days were spent lazing under a palapa and bobbing in the cove to keep cool as the temperature hovered around 85 degrees with 70% humidity. People spent a lot of time in the water making new friends from around the world.

Monday Sept. 4th.   We became aware of a storm watch that quickly escalated to a hurricane watch. We still hoped that the hurricane would veer to the northeast and give us just a dose of wind and rain then move on. As a precaution we went grocery shopping on Friday stocking up on food and bottled water preparing to rely on the full kitchen in our apartment.

Tuesday Sept. 5th.    It became apparent that the storm was now a full-blown hurricane headed directly for St. Maarten. Starting as a class 3 and building, Hurricane Irma eventually became a Class 5 plus with winds up to 120 MPH and gusts over 180 MPH.  As the day wore on the sea changed from beautiful calm turquoise to an angry dirty brown spewing white foam over the break wall and very high surf on the normally calm beach. At 4:00 pm a meeting was called at the pool area to inform residents what to expect and how to prepare. We were told to stock up on canned food and bottled water and store water to flush toilets because we were likely to lose water and electrical service.  By the time we returned to our room the water had been turned off due to high surf to prevent desalinization plants from becoming contaminated.  We got one of our trash cans and went to the pool to start collecting water to flush with. Around 7:00 pm the storm started in earnest. Blowing left to right horizontally across our 4th floor room and building as the night wore on.  We had electricity all night in spite of the storm.  Amy took a chair and hunkered down in the bathroom. I went to bed and slept until about midnight when I woke to winds whistling through the doors and water leaking in from the hall door.  We could hear debris blowing down the hallway and crashing into the walls and stairwells.  The corrugated roof flew off the building directly in front of our room and visibility was about five feet.

Wednesday. Sept 6th.    At 7:00 AM, the wind died down and the electricity went out.  The eye of Irma was passing directly over the island.  We could now see the destruction around us. The trees were stripped of all their leaves and flowers, most palm trees no longer had any fronds left and many were snapped in two. Many large trees were completely uprooted. We knew that the storm was traveling about 13 miles per hour and had lasted about 12 hours.  We estimated we had about another 12 hours to go after the eye passed over.  At 8:00 am, the opposite wall of the eye hit blowing from right to left even more ferociously than before.  The wind speed slowly decreased until it blew itself out.  By 1:00 pm people were out walking around but the wind was still strong.  Debris was everywhere, the ground floor walkways were impassable and the parking garage was flooded. Cars were strewn around like toys on a playroom floor, most smashed or on their sides, lights blinking and car alarms going off.  Walking around the resort we realized just how bad it had been with many rooms completely destroyed.  Luckily our room was intact but flooded with 2 to 3 inches of water on the floor and even more on the deck due to plugged drains.  We couldn’t make any headway with clean up until the patio drained. Our neighbors Mike and Sherry came over and Mike cleared the drains.  We spent the rest of the day sweeping out the water and cleaning up. After cleaning our room, Amy kept busy sweeping out the hallway and stairwells.

People whose rooms were destroyed, were moved into intact rooms.  Storm doors, refrigerators and furniture were blocking the halls and stairwells with debris everywhere.  After a meeting in the lobby to determine that no one in our hotel was seriously injured we went to bed contemplating what lie ahead.  At this point we had no electricity, running water or communication.

Thursday Sept 7th.   We formed an alliance with neighbors for safety and to gather information and supplies as a group. Mike and Sherry from NC, Liz and Don from NJ, and three from the UK, Genevieve, her husband Noel and brother Chris.  We exchanged contact information. Mike found his cell phone worked if he walked up the hill,  Genevieve had international calling and could contact her daughter Melanie in the UK. Melanie got an email to Amy’s husband, Bert, and he spread the word to our concerned friends and family.  It seems that all of Rio Vista was aware of our plight. The next days were tense not knowing the condition of the airport or runway and the rumors flew. Curfews were in effect from midday on Thursday because looting had begun.

Friday Sept. 8th.    We kept busy trying to clean up as best we could.  At 8:00 pm we received a message from Amy’s daughter, Alicia, to be at the airport Saturday at 7:00 am. Amy talked to Alicia briefly and confirmed that she had received a call from the State Dept. in Washington DC. We slept well that night.

Saturday Sept 9th.    At 2:00 am, a knock on the door from a neighbor alerted us to be in the lobby at 4 am for a meeting and possible flight out.  We were directed to pack only what we could carry on our lap.  We packed and left our room for the last time leaving most of our belongings behind.  In the lobby hotel personnel attempted to confirm the flights before they activated buses to take the hotel residents to the airport.  About 6:00 am a bus arrived and we started loading.  Our resort contracted a small bus company that made three or four trips to the airport. The line at the airport was already quite long.  Netherlands military were setting up barriers and keeping order when a soldier with a bull horn stood directly in front of us and called our names.  We thought we were being lined up for a flight with other people, but we were wrong.  He led us to the tarmac where we were greeted by an attendant in uniform who shook our hands and said her name was Erica.

On the runway was a 180 passenger airliner, (unknown origin), a C130 troop carrier, and a 12 passenger Gulfstream jet.  We asked which plane we would be taking and they pointed to the Gulfstream. Our mouths dropped open in surprise.  We felt guilty about our preferential treatment and leaving our friends behind. However, the flight was soon filled and we were airborne.  Erica served us delicious chicken salad sandwiches, drinks and chips, sooo good! We landed 35 minutes later in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the private jet Airport and went through customs and immigration there with 10 other passengers, then onto a van that took us to the main terminal.

We were now on our own to make our way home.  But we were safe and very grateful.  Knowing that soon the airport would be flooded with people trying to get flights and or hotel rooms we booked the earliest departing flight to Baltimore leaving at 2:10 pm Saturday. What a relief, we were going home!

Sunday Sept 10th.   We stayed over-night in Baltimore and went to the airport the next morning, waiting for our 7:00 am flight at the specified gate we realized to late our gate had been changed and we missed our plane by 5 minutes. (Always check your gates). The airline managed to get us on a flight leaving in just a few minutes and treated us like royalty with pre-boarding passes. This was probably due to the meltdown we had at the desk.  They just wanted us out of there!

We came home to our families and friends at SFO with a sign saying, “Welcome home Hurricane Irma Survivors.”  Friends gave us a welcome home party that evening and of course we had to tell our story many times.

We still are mystified about how events unfolded and how Alicia got us on that early special flight out while hundreds of others waited to be flown out on C130’s.  All we can say is our toast landed “Jelly side up” and we are GLAD TO BE HOME!!!


Looking out our window after the storm.

Looking out our window after the storm.


Ground floor walk way to the beach.

Ground floor walk way to the beach.


What is left of the room Don and Liz were in.

What is left of the room Don and Liz were in.


Unidentifiable location

Unidentifiable location


Boarding the Gulf stream from Phoenix Air charter.

Boarding the Gulf stream from Phoenix Air charter.



Flamingo beach before the storm.

Flamingo beach before the storm.


Stray dogs are flown to new homes on mainland on private planes.
Every few months, Citigroup banker David Brownstein and his team fly dozens of stray dogs in Puerto Rico to rescue operations in the Hamptons and the Jersey Shore.

By Aaron Kuriloff

PUERTO RICO— Citigroup banker David Brownstein, one of the executives charged with helping this U.S. commonwealth through its fiscal emergency, launched his latest rescue effort at dawn on a San Juan airstrip.

Once airborne for the mainland, Mr. Brownstein, Citi’s head of public finance, got up from his seat to reassure a nervous flier, a black, 20-pound stray dog named Dulce Maria.

Dulce Maria gazed wide-eyed around the private jet, which was littered with comforts, including overstuffed chairs and trays of pastry—a far cry from scrounging for scraps in the dumpsters of beach bars. Mr. Brownstein and his team coaxed the shivering canine out of her pet carrier, fed her a turkey sandwich from the plane’s catering, swaddled her in a blanket and set her in the lap of one of the dog rescuers, a model.

See full article here

By Will James, @OtherWillJames
Newsday articles

Forty dogs plucked from the streets of Puerto Rico were greeted with a blast of frigid air and the first blankets some had ever touched as they landed at a Westhampton Beach airport Saturday morning.

Representatives of two Long Island organizations flew with the former strays on a cargo plane to Francis S. Gabreski Airport in a mission to relieve an overcapacity Puerto Rican shelter.

Employees of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, or ARF, each packed about 20 dogs into vehicles waiting on the tarmac. In Puerto Rico, temperatures had been in the 80s; on Long Island, the windchill was below zero.

See full article here

Business jets converted to flying ICUs are the workhorses of aeromedical transport around the world

BCA, Business & Commercial Aviation

When television viewers saw news coverage of American medical professional infected with Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever arriving in the U.S. for treatment, it’s doubtful many of them knew that the aircraft bringing them back from Africa were specially modified, commercially operated Gulfstream business jets.

Between August 2014 and March 2015, Phoenix Air of Cartersville, Geor­gia, flew more than 40 Ebola patient transfers between Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia in West Africa to Europe and the U.S. The patients were carried aboard Gulfstream III air ambulances equipped with special isolation tents in their cabins designed to protect physicians, nurses and flight crewmembers from infec­tion with the dreaded virus. The flights, transporting U.S. and European citizens associated with non-governmental or­ganizations (NGOs) like Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, were conducted under contract to the U.S. State Department.

See full article here

By Emory Lawyer

As general counsel for Phoenix Air Group in Cartersville, Georgia, Randall “Randy” G. Davis 79L spends about 80 percent of his time on the ground, dealing with the legal complexities that accompany one of the larger international air ambulance and special-mission companies in the world.

See full article here

By Josh Hicks October 28
Washington Post

When it comes to transporting Ebola victims by air, the world relies on just one small U.S. company.

Phoenix Air, a jet-charter service based in Cartersville, Ga., has flown 15 infected patients, including Europeans who worked in West Africa and five individuals who were treated in the United States — doctor Kent Brantly, photojournalist Ashoka Mukpo, missionary Nancy Writebol, and nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson.

Now the Defense Department is stepping up. The Pentagon this week said it is developing portable isolation units for use on its military aircraft, as thousands of U.S. troops head to West Africa to help combat the outbreak. The modules are expected to be tested next month and deployed in C-17 and C-130 transport planes by January.

Phoenix Air has been using the isolation system below this aircraft to transport Ebola patients. (EPA/BRANDEN CAMP)

“This system is being developed out of an abundance of caution, to reassure our service members working in Ebola-affected areas,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea. “There are no plans for DOD personnel to provide direct patient care, and therefore the exposure risk remains low” for troops, Elzea said.

The Obama administration has not decided whether it will use the isolation systems to transport non-military patients.

“This particular capability remains under development, so it would be premature to speak to its potential use,” said White House spokesman Ned Price.

One thing is for sure: The military transports would have greater capacity. Phoenix Air can fly only one infected individual at a time, whereas the military’s isolation units will hold up to 12 patients.

The Pentagon declined to share information about the development costs for the transport modules, saying the contract has not been finalized.

The tent-like isolation chambers mainly consist of a metal frame, a plastic liner and an air-filtration system. For the Phoenix Air flights, one doctor and two nurses attend to each patient.

A view of inside an Airborne Biological Containment System (ABCS) in Cartersville, Ga. (EPA/BRANDEN CAMP)

After each patient is transported, the company sprays toxic disinfectant inside the module for 24 hours and sends the contents — including the plastic, the stretchers and even the walkie talkies — off for incineration by a federally licensed hazardous-materials disposal team.

Phoenix Air created three isolation units in 2011 with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Defense Department. Those agencies provided scientific expertise and advice on how to manufacture special materials, respectively.

At the time, the CDC wanted a way to return infected medical workers to the United States instead of treating them in the field, because of growing concern about international conflicts, said Dent Thompson, the company’s vice president of operations.

The transport systems were finished in late-2011, but the outbreaks had long since died down. The units were placed in storage.

“We would periodically make various federal agencies aware that it existed and said, ‘If you ever need it, we can use it,’” Thompson said.

A call finally came from the State Department’s chief of emergency medicine in late-July, amid growing concerns about the West African Ebola outbreak. Phoenix Air quickly assembled a volunteer flight and medical crew after government officials inspected the system and gave it a thumbs-up.

“Within 48 hours, we were on our way to get the first patient,” Thompson said, speaking of the flight to transport Brantly on Aug. 2. The plane took Brantly to Atlanta and turned around almost immediately to fetch Writebol.

Vance Ferebee, flight nurse for Phoenix Air, sits inside a containment system in Cartersville, Ga. (EPA/BRANDEN CAMP)

Both trips, which cost about $200,000 each, including the decontamination process, were paid for by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian organization that the patients worked with in Liberia.

After those missions, Phoenix Air decided that the U.S. government should manage future transport efforts, because of the “real-world complexities of what it takes to make a mission like this work,” Thompson said. The challenges include dealing with U.S. customs officials, gaining permission to use foreign airspace and deciding which medical centers should treat the Ebola victims.

The State Department has since coordinated all flights, including those for foreigners returning to their countries. U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for American patients, but the government requires reimbursement for the others.

“To me, this is no different from a soldier being shot in Afghanistan,” Thompson said. “The U.S. government is going to get that soldier and bring him home and put him in a medical facility.”

The federal government has been a longtime customer of Phoenix Air. In addition to flying executive charters and providing air-ambulance services, the business of about 225 employees also runs cargo for the military, provides flights for the U.S. Marshals Service and carried the White House’s presidential delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The company now keeps one plane on standby for transporting Ebola victims.

“We’re like a firetruck in a fire station,” Thompson said. “We’re ready to go.”


See full article here

By Daily Planet
May 4-8 on Discovery

Ebola Plane

It’s the only private jet in the world you do not want to be on, and they’re the medical team you do not want to see… unless you’ve contracted Ebola. Phoenix Air has developed the world’s only aircraft designed to safely transport patients with highly contagious deadly diseases. In the last year, they’ve flown over 40 patients on Ebola-related flights from West Africa for medical treatment – most of them healthcare workers. The team of doctors are always on call, ready to deploy within 12 hours to save a life. But how are the team and the the patient packed into a pressurized aluminum tube for 12 hours without infecting everyone in the process?

See broadcast segment here