Reason No. 151

December 7, 2011 by David Jack Kenny, Air Safety Institute

I was expecting it to be Reason Number 150, but the rescue group decided to juggle the passenger list, and I wound up with eight dogs and puppies rather than seven. Most were small, so I didn’t have to harness anybody in the co-pilot’s seat. A hard crate in the back seat carried a beagle mix and her two pups, still nursing; the soft crate next to it held another hound mix and a Border collie, both half grown. A soft crate in the baggage hatch was big enough for a black hound who’d served as  a foster mother and two more beagle pups. By the time we’d climbed above 5,000 feet, everybody had settled down to nap.

An English setter on his way to a new home.

For the second straight week, I’d had to tunnel into 40-knot headwinds all the way across West Virginia. In a 180-hp Piper Arrow, that slows things down considerably; the groundspeed readout on my GPS only occasionally showed triple digits. But heading east, it boosted us to 175 knots. The 320-nm leg from Yeager Field in Charleston to the Queen City Airport outside Allentown, Pa., actually went seven minutes faster than the 210-nm outbound leg from Frederick, Maryland, and the pups reached their foster homes by dinnertime.

I made my first rescue flight in January 2009. Not long afterwards I began using a column in my logbook to track the number of dogs I’d hauled. This latest pack brought the total to 151. Without a doubt, it’s the most rewarding flying I’ve done. I’ve landed at airports I’d never have had any other reason to visit, flown on gusty, bumpy days when it would have been easy to be lazy and stay home, and put those hard-won instrument and crosswind landing skills to practical use. I have met some of the most selfless, generous, hard-working people on the planet–people who will not let themselves be discouraged by an endless stream of unwanted animals and county shelters that can’t afford to help them. Best of all, I have pictures of 151 dogs (and counting) and the satisfaction of having given them a little help getting home.

Maybe dogs aren’t your thing. No problem! Opportunities for public-benefit flying are everywhere. Whether it’s transporting human patients on Angel Flights, training to do search-and-rescue with the CAP, carrying out environmental surveys, or giving demo flights at your airport’s open house, there’s no end of ways your airmanship can help make things better for someone else. Look around, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to fly–enough to deserve a separate column in your logbook.

If aviating for others has changed your attitude, tell us more in the “Comments” section.  We’d love to hear about the worries as well as the rewards … not to mention any really good flying stories.

David Jack Kenny is the statistician for the Air Safety Institute.

7 Responses to “Reason No. 151”

  1. Joyce Rust Says:

    I once read this quote:
    “The ultimate responsibility of the pilot is to fulfill the dreams of the countless millions of earthbound ancestors who could only stare skyward and dream.”

    I’ve taken it to heart and made it my responsibility to introduce as many people to flying as possible. I’ve started a program I call ‘Grey Eagles’, taking senior citizens up, in some cases for their first flight, and in most cases their first in a small GA aircraft. The rewards are great.

  2. Michele Says:

    I concur with all my heart. 51 “Missions” and 234 furry souls saved.

    Even though I don’t have a commercial ticket, I charge each passenger…. One sloppy puppy kiss is all it costs for a flight to a better life. Don’t tell the FAA. :)

  3. KIm Purcell Says:

    I finally got to do my first Pilots and Paws flight for a very sweet 80 lb American Bulldog named Kyser. I picked him up in Winnemucca Nv and flew to Santa Rosa CA where he’s to be trained as a service dog. I was the best reason to get the Bonanza out for a good flight and it made alot of people and one dog very happy

  4. Tanya Says:

    I’ve made several Pilots n Paws flights. Helping to save those that can’t speak is very rewarding and a great reason to go lubricate the engine. You can do just one flight and still make a huge difference to several lives.

  5. thomas boyle Says:

    Since many sport pilots (or private pilots flying on sport privileges) are at a point in life where they have a bit more time than most, what – if any – types of public benefit flying can be done on Sport Pilot privileges?

  6. David Jack Kenny Says:

    Excellent question, Mr. Boyle!

    The FARs are probably less restrictive on this point than some of the participating groups. Most of the Angel Flight and affiliated organizations, for example, require at least a private pilot’s certificate with instrument rating even for flights in daytime VFR. I don’t know how they’d respond to pilots with those credentials who’ve chosen to operate as sport pilots, particularly if the aircraft isn’t IFR-equipped, but it might be worth asking.

    Demonstration flights would certainly be a possibility, whether something like Joyce Rust’s “Grey Eagles” program, one of the Women Fly It Forward events geared toward bringing more women and girls into aviation, the EAA’s Young Eagles, or community open house at the airport. Animal transports with Pilots N Paws, Animal Rescue Flights, or any of the other rescue groups would certainly be possible within the limitations of the airplane. You’d need to look at what size of crate could fit where and/or think about whether you’d be comfortable flying with an unfamiliar dog harnessed to the belts in the co-pilot’s seat.

    One use that would be particularly well suited to either vintage high-wing airplanes operated as LSAs or some of the new models with bubble canopies would be to help conservation groups with land-use surveys, where lower altitudes, slower cruise speeds, and great visibility are all assets. I used to take the local coordinator for the North Carolina Coastal Federation up to look for damage to the wetlands of the barrier islands, but flying 1,000 agl at 90 knots and maneuvering to get a look around the wings wasn’t entirely comfortable in my Arrow.

    And, of course, there’s a certain public benefit to just taking friends who’ve never been in a light airplane out for a first flight. I hope you’ll let me know what you come up with.

    — DJK

  7. CJS Says:

    This great column will be presented to my flying organization, I’m not sure most of our pilots know that these service opportunities exist.
    Another that I heard about last weekend is the coastguard auxiliary, which flies SAR and patrols and apparently includes training and compensates pilots for fuel. In addition, military style procedures and oversight may lead to safer operations.

Leave a Reply