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PHOENIX -- Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is giving back on his birthday this year.

The gubernatorial hopeful turns 58 on Friday and to celebrate, he is taking his plane for a whirl to Yuma.

Smith said many don't realize it, but he's been a pilot for the better part of a decade.

"I'm sure it's probably a surprise to many people that I fly a plane, but I love it," he said. "It's one of my great passions."

But this year, Smith won't be taking just any ordinary trip. Instead, he will leave Falcon Field in Mesa, before sunrise, to transport a special payload of blood.

"United Blood Services delivers the blood platelets to Falcon Field, I put it in my plane, takeoff and in my plane it's a short 57- or 58-minute flight from Mesa to Yuma," he said.

From there, the Yuma Regional Medical Center will use the blood for patient care.

Smith noted the flight is part of a group called Flights for Life.

"It's a group of several dozen pilots that donate their time and their planes to fly blood and blood products around the state for United Blood Services," he said.

He added that he is glad to help out the organization.

"We get to give service, we get to do something that really has an impact on people's lives and we get to fly around this great state," Smith said. "It's so beautiful from the air and especially early in the morning."

Smith should land in Yuma around 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Mark Remillard,

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