SD pilot saves 400+ lives in Papua New Guinea

Posted at 1:42 PM, Sep 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-18 16:42:20-04

A San Diego man has saved more than 400 lives on the other side of the world with his plane.

Mark Palm and his family operate the only free, 24/7 air ambulance for people in the most remote part of Papua New Guinea.

For Palm, it's not donating to charity; this is donating your life to charity.

"If you can imagine a place where you are living on a 700-mile river, there is one hospital for 500,000 people and that hospital is three to five days away," Palm said.

Palm founded Samaritan Aviation, and he said, "Just last year we did 117 emergency flights."

Palm, his wife Kirsten, and their three children moved to Papua New Guinea in 2010.

"Basically, go two years, two-and-a-half years, come home for a few months, try to get our kids back into American culture, visit grandparents and raise money and then we head back again for a couple of years," Palm said.

The family will leave again in about 120 days.

"Their hospital can be anywhere from three, six days away, so they can come on canoe, but by the time, they have a snakebite or bleeding out or complicated pregnancy; they don't even bother trying because they don't make it," Kirsten Palm said.

Mark Palm took 10News for a ride in their new plane. It will be the second free air ambulance serving Papua New Guinea.

"For me, it was a calling to go to a remote place in the world to make a difference," Mark Palm said.

Two other families are on the island flying the first plane.

"It's amazing. The Papua New Guinea government actually paid for half of this airplane," he said.

Palm added, "We're all here on Earth to make a difference, I feel."

"The feeling you have doing something like this is -- it's indescribable because you are giving somebody hope and you are giving somebody an opportunity to live," Kirsten Palm said.

For more information on Samaritan Aviation, visit