MESA, AZ - A Valley mayor is spending several hours a month delivering life-saving blood supplies in his own plane and on his own time.
"We don't charge anybody," said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. "It's really a labor of love for us pilots."
The Flights for Life program has been delivering blood for years, and we were lucky enough to hitch a ride.
The private pilots fly boxes of blood from Phoenix to spots like Flagstaff and Yuma to keep supplies up. The blood is collected, tested in a lab in Phoenix, then flown to hospitals around the state.
The process must be finished quickly, as the blood supplies have a shelf life of about five days.
"To make sure the right blood goes to the right patient is what we do," said Sue Thew of United Blood Services.
The round trip takes a couple of hours, soaring above beautiful Arizona at 8,500 feet at 200 plus miles an hour. United Blood Services staff is waiting at the Flagstaff airport to pick up the box of blood and drive the last leg to the airport.
Flagstaff Medical Center is the only trauma center north of the Valley, and the blood they receive from Flights for Life saves countless lives.
"Having those supplies on hand is crucial," said Bill Ashland, who runs the trauma center.
For Smith, it's back to the friendly skies and back home to Mesa, a box of blood successfully delivered by a mayor with a heart.
"It feels good to fly with a purpose and help people along the way."
It's now just before 10 a.m. For Mayor Smith, it's time to start his day job.