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Footprints in the Sky...

Mission Statement:


is a Denver-based 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to providing flights to medical facilities throughout the United States, for all people in need of Medical Care, whether it be routine in nature, critical or life-saving. Our goal is to provide humanitarian assistance to patients without the financial capability and resources to facilitate this travel for themselves.

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Footprints in the Sky matches patients with flights


by Daniel Smith / YourHub / The Denver Post


Johnny Langland has been taking a dream across the sky for 10 years, flying people needing life-saving or critical medical care across t he country -- and he doesn't own his own plane for the purpose.

He hopes that will change. He and his wife, Suzanne, of Centennial, have started a nonprofit, Footprints in the Sky, to arrange flights for those in need of care. His goal is to raise awareness of the service, and to raise enough money to buy a jet.

It started when a student in ground school at Centennial Airport told Langland his dad was dying of cancer in Wyoming and was too sick to be driven to Denver to be with his family. Langland found an available Cessna from an understanding organization and flew the man to be w ith his family for his final month.

Two months later, someone at Langland's athletic club asked him to help transport his sister, who also had cancer. Off he went again, seeking help from corporations with jets with empty seats scheduled to fly from one city to another. The trick is matching the plane and schedule with the patient's need.

"I didn't just sit down one day and say, 'Let's do this -- I'll be the Mother Theresa of aviation,'" he said. "This came after me, and I feel like I'm just along for the ride, watching this unfold."

He didn't realize it was his apparent destiny until his own mother was stricken with terminal stomach cancer, he said. He searched his resources and got her a flight to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. En route, she commented she could see supporting the effort financially.

She died after a three-year battle with the disease, and Langland said the sale of a parcel of land from her estate provided him about $700 to start Footprints in the Sky, the nonprofit he started.

Flights are provided at little or no cost to patients and family. Flights can normally cost thousands of dollars, depending on the plane and the destination.

Similar organizations, like Angel Flight West, utilize smaller planes on shorter flights.

Angel Flight West Wing Leader Rob Brietbarth said they fly about 150 missions a year in Colorado and could do more. About 70 percent of current clients are cancer patients and families.

Demand for Angel Flight has gone down in the tight economy, Brietbarth said, apparently because some needy families can't afford accommodations and food, even when the flight is provided at no cost.

Langland said the inspiration for the name Footprints in the Sky came to him as he prepared morphine for his mother in her Lakewood home and saw a scroll on a dresser with the well-known poem titled "Footprints in the Sand." Footprints in the Sky was a natural; carrying people when they most needed help.

The Denver native became a pilot in 1975 after eight years of what he terms "chasing baseball," including a stint as a pitcher in the Minnesota Twins farm system.

He's flown commercially and privately, and after 10,000-plus hours in the air, he has a business Web site up and is preparing brochures for distribution.


For more information on Footprints in the Sky, go to, or call 303-799-0461.




Johnson: Denver charity lines up private flight for teenage cancer patient

By Bill Johnson
Denver Post Columnist

The good news is Austin Williams, a 15-year-old cancer patient, made it to Washington, D.C. He got his tour of the Smithsonian and the White House and made it in time for his visit with the Dalai Lama.

I know this because I finally reached Johnny Langland.

He and his wife, Suzanne, wrote to and called me a couple of weeks ago when I was on vacation. The e-mail, when I finally got around to it, startled me.

They run Footprints In The Sky, a Denver-based nonprofit that arranges private flights for severely ill people, mostly those with weakened immune systems, who cannot fly commercially.

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children had contacted Johnny Langland days earlier, seeking a July 8 flight to D.C. for the teen.

Johnny Langland, 64, has been in flight operations for 30 years as a corporate pilot, an instructor, flight department manager and aviation consultant. He knows people.

Finding a private jet for such a trip through Footprints normally takes a couple of weeks. Langland had only two days. But he came through, finding a corporation that was willing to donate its corporate jet and its pilot.

The only condition was that Footprints cover the cost of fuel. And that would cost the nonprofit $4,000.

That is when Johnny Langland called and e-mailed me, asking whether maybe I could put out an appeal.

How it started

All of it goes back 15 years, when one of his flight students at Centennial Airport came to him seeking a favor:

His father was in Casper, Wyo. He was dying. Could he maybe find a plane that could fly his father back to Denver?

Langland knew the owner of a twin-engine Cessna who would let him use the plane if he covered the fuel cost. Langland flew the plane himself.

Every three or four months for the next 13 years, a similar plea would cross his path. Over that time, he built a large network of companies with and owners of private planes.

But it wasn't until 1996 when his elderly mother, Minnie, needed transport to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., that the idea of focusing on the humanitarian side of aviation struck him.

His mother was desperately ill. She did not survive to make the return trip home to Denver.

On his trip back, in his grief, he realized that the flight to Rochester would have cost him $40,000 had he not known a pilot with a jet, who donated everything.

"Maybe I have been doing this for all these years for a purpose," he told himself.

He and Suzanne applied for nonprofit status for Footprints in 2009. Today, they average about two calls a day for flights.

The call from the hospital about the teenage boy was different. It wasn't to take him to a medical facility, which is Footprint's stock-in-trade. OK, Johnny Langland decided, they would do it.

Donations pour in

He contacted everyone he knew. He went on the radio to appeal for funds. Money began to pour in — $15 here, $200 there.

By July 8, nearly $5,800 had been donated.

That same day, a bad storm moved in over the East coast. They could get Austin Williams as far as Nashville, Tenn., before continuing on the next morning.

It would destroy some of the boy's plans in D.C.

Instead, a friend of the boy's family donated nearly 100,000 of her frequent-flier miles. The family left on a United flight that night.

Johnny Langland was in the process of returning the donated money when I reached him.

"It was a project we don't normally do, and we had never raised a penny before, but so many people came out of so many places," he said. "I really didn't want to disappoint them, or anyone."

He made yet more connections from the experience, he said. More calls now are coming in.

The bad weather that week, he figures, might have been a blessing in disguise. The boy got there on time and got to do everything that had been planned.

"I understand he had a wonderful time," he said. "You know, that's really the bottom line."