While many pilots hop in their planes and go for joy rides, Ken Knopp gets his joy helping sick people by transporting them for medical treatment.

The 42-year-old Upper Township resident said he has been interested in flight since he was a boy, eventually going to college for aerospace engineering and landing a job as an engineer for the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, where he has worked for 20 years.

Knopp received his pilot's license about 16 years ago, but he didn't own his own plane until about 18 months ago, when he purchased a four-seat single-engine aircraft.

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Not the kind of pilot who likes to fly recreationally without a purpose, Knopp discovered Angel Flight East, a Pennsylvania-based charitable organization that works to set up transportation for people who need specialized medical treatment but cannot afford the travel costs. Many patients whom the organization arranges travel for are not allowed to travel on airlines because of weakened immune systems.

For about a year, Knopp has flown to various locations ranging from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to North Carolina in his plane, which reaches speeds of about 190 mph. Not only does he donate his time and plane, but also the cost of the fuel for each trip.

"It's better than just going out buzzing around the countryside," said Knopp, who added that he has flown charitable trips about a dozen times so far. "For me, it's about flying for a purpose. I love doing it, so why not do it for a good reason?"

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