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.