One Carson City couple is traveling the country to help those in need ... in a plane they built themselves.
Kim and Joel Allen have been traveling critical care nurses for almost 20 years and spend their time going to different hospitals across the United States to offer help to their health care centers. They’re specialized to work with the ICU but can also work in the ER or PACU.
“We travel because we like the time off and we can take jobs that last from a week to three months,” Kim said. “There are various reasons why the hospitals may need us, if they are training new people, if the computer system is down or if an area can’t supply enough nurses.
“I like the freedom and the time off (the job allows) because if we worked for a hospital we would only get two weeks off and this way we can get months off of work.”
The two have nursing licenses in 35 different states, including Hawaii, Washington, and Missouri, so they are certified to work in most parts of the country.
But unlike most travelers, the Allens fly across the country in a two-seater Vans RV 7A Experimental Kit Plane. The plane took Joel nearly six and a half years to build at the Carson Airport, and the two have been flying themselves to jobs and vacations since August of last year.
“It was very difficult to build but I just took it day by day,” Joel said. “They say that when you are stuck, just come in and sweep the floor or do something just so you can make sure you are here every day.”
To build the plane, the couple ordered plans from Vans Aircraft Inc., which sent them detailed plans for every aspect of the plan as well as the materials to build it. Typically the plane costs about $50,000 to $120,000 to build between the plans and materials.
“It is a lot at first, but they start you off with easy stuff so you learn as you go,” Joel said.
Luckily, the Allens weren’t alone with their project, Joel said the other residents at the Carson Airport were extremely supportive.
“The community at the airport was so supportive of the project, just by giving expertise and knowledge,” Kim said. “It was so great, it was so nice how much support we got.”
Joel had always wanted to fly planes, but loved being a nurse too much. The couple had just decided to build their own plane because it was the only way to get a new plane in their price range and it was able to fly faster than the other planes they could afford.
“We build the plane because it was the same price range (as the older planes) that cruise about 100 miles per hour and ours cruise at 200 miles per hour,” Joel said.
So far this year, the couple has flown more than 200 hours, traveling 41 hours and 8,000 miles on their trip last week to the East Coast. They have been able to travel to Buffalo, New York, North Carolina and across the California coast. The Allens said that flying eliminates so much travel time, like when they visit family in California.
“It is awesome, instead of a six hour drive it is a one hour flight,” Joel said. “We could go over for breakfast and be home by early afternoon.”
The plane seats two, with a baggage area that can hold up to 100 additional pounds. It’s equipped with autopilot and can sustain in temperatures as low as the teens. And though Joel is the only licensed pilot of the two so far, Kim is also training to get her pilot’s license, so when they fly she’s practicing radioing the towers and such.
“It is definitely a different kind of learning experience,” Kim said.