Pilot Wears Captain America Costume to Calm Patients' Fears
The Real-Life Superheroes of Teddy Bear Transport
Captain America runs to the young boy in trouble. Our hero hands the boy his shield. He boy smiles and then Captain America jumps in his jet and flies the boy to safety.
“And then he had the audacity to tell me his favorite superhero was Superman!”
No, this is no comic book. This is the life of Captain Mike Dall, one of the jet pilots for Cook Children’s Teddy Bear Transport.
For 11 years, Dall has piloted the Cessna Citation Encore+jet. He’s had many memorable flights throughout his career, but on two of those occasions in the past couple of years he’s flown in a full Captain America suit, including a red, white and blue shield made from his trash can.
“It wasn’t anything premeditated,” Dall said while talking about the decision to wear the suit. “One Halloween, my kids wanted to go as superheroes. They asked me to join them. I made the shield and went with the kids. I thought, ‘I have the suit and if my kids liked it, maybe the patients might like it too.”
Dall remembers telling the medical crew on Teddy Bear Transport about the suit. He asks them to access the situation and see if it was right for the suit. Preemies are too young and older kids “would just think it’s weird.” But kids between the ages of 5 and 9 years old might think it’s cool.
Finally, the opportunity arrives. Dall said the patient looks at him as if the real Captain America is here and going to take care of him.
“The main reason I did it was because I saw the joy on my kids face when I wore the suit,” Dall said. “As a child all you want to do is go play with your friends and have fun. Now, you are a child and you’re sick cooped up in a hospital, maybe you’ve never flown before, it might be dark outside and you are afraid. I just thought what if you can add one thing that’s familiar to them or maybe even something that’s epic, it might make them forget about all that other stuff. It led me to think, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do this. Even if it embarrasses my coworkers.’”
And even as the child’s eyes brighten at the site of Cap showing up on the scene, he lets Dall know he wishes he was Superman.
“Really kid?” Dall laughs. “But I thought it was hilarious. Kids are just so honest. It was great.”
Dall says it’s hard to bring the suit out more than occasionally. Along with the right age, the situation can’t be too somber. Plus, the suit is really hot. But with the fall coming, Dall says the time may be right for Captain America to show back up.
While he may not be a true comic book superhero, Dall does share a military background with the fictional Steve Rogers’ alter ego and he is the captain of the flight crew. He flies about 60 times a year and goes throughout the state of Texas and has flown as far as Pittsburgh.
Dall grew up a military brat, living everywhere from Germany to Kansas.
He went to flight school in 2000, moved to Texas, married and became a flight instructor for about four years. After a deployment to Iraq as a member of the National Guard, Dall returned home. Now with children and needing a steady job, Dall opted not to follow the career path of most of his friends –working at an airline – and instead went to Cook Children’s to be a part of the air medical team of Teddy Bear Transport.
"Mike brings an amazing energy to our program," said Deborah Boudreaux, director of Teddy Bear Transport. "I am always happy to see him when I get to work. His passion and commitment to our patients and team is humbling. I'm so very happy to have him on my team."
Dall is employed by Metro Aviation, which operates the aircraft at Cook Children’s and is one of 16 pilots on staff. The transport fleet includes a:
- Cessna Citation+jet*
- King Air B200 critical care transport airplane*
- American Eurocopter 145 helicopter*
With the pilots and the transport team all working together at Meacham Field in Fort Worth, Dall says he feels like a part of the team and there is a special bond between the pilots and the Cook Children’s transport team.
“It’s such a great feeling to know you are doing something important and something good for someone,” Dall said. “It’s really cool to be able to provide that service for somebody. We might go from sitting around all day to all the sudden, we need to go pick up a patient. Sometimes I don’t even go into the hospital, depending on the situation. I wait at the plane. But when I have go in, it’s so cool to see the sense of relief from the hospital staff we travel to and the patient families when the blue suits arrive and they take over. It’s awesome to watch.”
Heck, they may be better than even Superman.
*Aircraft operated by Metro Aviation, Shreveport, Louisiana.