Star of Queens: John Rochelle


John Rochelle


Patient AirLift Services (PALS)

Community Involvement: John Rochelle is one of the co-founders and vice chair of Patient AirLift Services (PALS), which provides free air transportation for patients based on their need for medical assistance. Rochelle is one of the many pilots who volunteers without any compensation and all of the aircraft and fuel are donated.

He was one of the volunteers during 9/11 who traveled to places such as New Jersey, Ohio, and Oklahoma City to transport donated blood, medical supplies and search dogs back to New York for the victims.

“Flying patients puts perspective on how fortunate we are, and flying is my passion, so it is a win-win situation,” Rochelle said.

Personal: Rochelle and his wife have two children, a boy and a girl, and two grandchildren. He is a recently retired custom builder who has been flying for 42 years. When he is not helping to save people’s lives, he is also a flight instructor.

Inspiration: “Flying has always been one of my favorite things to do”, Rochelle said. His inspiration came from the need to give back after his success in his business. He has always wanted to help others and co-founded PALS to make a difference in the world. It is now one of the fastest growing airlift services.

Biggest challenge: “The most difficult thing in PALS,” Rochelle said, “is outreach.” It is hard to give coverage to all those who need it because very few people know about the service, he noted.

Favorite memory: Rochelle says it is hard to pick a favorite memory because all of his experiences are unique and rewarding. He loves to tell one story, however. There was a girl who had a rapidly-growing tumor and needed immediate attention before her air passages were blocked. Rochelle volunteered to make the flight from the girl’s home in Columbia, South Carolina to a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The girl’s mother was very afraid of flying, so her daughter kept telling her it would be okay and to keep calm. Rochelle loves this story because while the daughter was fighting for her life, she still wanted to make sure her mom was okay.

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