Not all heroes wear capes. Some fly their own airplanes and rescue animals from grave conditions.
Who doesn’t love slobbery kisses from a big oversized fluffy dog, an avalanche of cute puppies, or the purring of a kitty cat that just seems to make everything in the world all right? Next time you give your possibly adopted fur baby a treat, you might also want to thank a pilot. Pilots worldwide are coming together and loading their airplanes full of “pawssengers.” By doing so, they raise awareness and save animals from being euthanized, displaced, or from a grim fate.
The ASPCA states, “Each year, approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized (390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats) in the U.S. alone.” With the help of non-profit organizations like Pilots to the Rescue, Pilots N Paws, Animal Rescue Flights, and various other animal rescue pilots, over 200,000 animals have been rescued up to date, with over 16,000 animals flying yearly. Get to know the heroes behind these extraordinary operations below!
Pilots to the Rescue
With over 1,000 animals saved, over 11,989 miles flown, and 61 dogs plus 53 cats getting a new shot in life, Pilots to the Rescue (PTTR) are determined to save as many animals as possible. PTTR is a non-profit organization comprised of trained pilot volunteers and a 501c3 public benefit aviation organization. Pilots from all over the U.S. transport domestic and endangered animals who might be facing euthanasia, need to leave a dire situation, or just need transportation to their new home or shelter.
Founder Michael Schneider started this ever-growing foundation by combining his love for animals with his passion for aviation. “So it took 45 years to realize what I wanted to do when I grew up. This is a real passion of mine; it gives me such a sense of fulfillment, and I love doing this work. It’s tremendous.” Schneider stated. PPTR has also saved wolves and sea turtles and helped release them back into the wild.
Pilots N Paws
Pilots N Paws is a non-profit organization that brings pilots and animals together, free of charge. The organization has over 4,200 pilots in 50 U.S. states and flies around 15,000 animals yearly. Over 15 years ago, animal lover Debi Boies and pilot Jon Wehrenberg joined forces after realizing that animal transportation was not readily available for animals in need. They paired up with aircraft maker Cirrus, which supports them financially. Together they have transported dogs, cats, dolphins, bears, turtles, eagles, and other wild animals who have suffered from wildfires! Pilots N Paws serves as a mediator between the shelter, a new home, or clients.
Pilot Jackie Gaertner shared this story: “On one particular flight, we were able to fit seven pet crates in the cabin, carrying a total of 39 animals. They were transported safely and comfortably in our pressurized cabin fromVisalia, California, to Hillsboro, Oregon – a 2.5-hour flight. This included three momma dogs, 30 puppies (22 less than a week old), and six kittens.”
Animal Rescue Flights
Animal Rescue Flights (ARF) has been helping animals since early 2008. Pilots, crews, drivers, shelters, and volunteers from all over the U.S. have come together with the platform Doobert to transport everyone safely. ARF promotes animal welfare, saves animals from death, and takes them to their new families. Both the senders and the receivers will never face a fee.
Rain, shine, hail, or stormy, pilots are helping animals in need and helping them reach their next and hopefully happy destination.
Log hours, save animals
“I hope other pilots will get involved. They will find it to be so very rewarding. You are using your unique gift of being able to fly an airplane to do something really worthwhile.” Said volunteer pilot Sue Haas for Pilots N Paws.
From logging hours, taking your plane for a personal trip, or looking to give back. Joining one of the organizations above can be just what you are looking for; in return, you can be a hero to someone or even a whole family. Humanitarian flights help to move out overpopulated areas and save animals in return. They help to free up space. And who knows, you might find yourself alongside a dolphin or a cute puppy that might become the love of your life.
When all else fails, look to the skies, you may just witness one of the many pilots behind one of the cutest and furry operations out there. “It’s not just the 1,000+ animals that I’ve saved. Many times I’ve saved the families, too, because they say they’re the best part of their lives, their best friends,” he explained. “That kind of energy that comes back to you is priceless. And that’s really why I do this work.”- Schneider, PTTR.
SJU and Iberia Airlines are teaming up to bring direct flights during the high season.
From offering 4 to 5 weekly flights from Iberia Airlines to flights once a day, big changes are coming to SJU! The Spanish airline Iberiahas committed to expanding its routes to SJU, meaning travelers who wish to travel to and from Madrid and San Juan can do so once a day during the peak season of August and September.
“Spain and Puerto Rico have a great cultural and commercial relationship that is increasingly growing stronger with the participation of Puerto Rico in events such as Fitur and through alliances achieved with influential companies such as Iberia,” stated Javier Sánchez-Prieto, President of Iberia.
This past International Tourism Fair in Madrid(Fitur), the Puerto Rican Government and Iberia signed an agreement to expand the Madrid/Puerto Rico route. Additionally, the deal includes a collaborative renewal of marketing and sales agreements to help inspire travelers from Europe to visit Puerto Rico. As part of the strategy, ongoing promotional campaigns, such as Live Boricua, aim to expand flight networks to Puerto Rico.
Carla Campos, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, shared, “Iberia is our most important trading partner in the European market. The negotiations we carried out at Fitur 2022 resulted in a greater frequency of weekly flights, the highest number of seats available in 20 years, and an increase of about fourteen percentage points in load factors during the second half of 2022.”
The agreement will help Puerto Rico redirect tourist traffic from Spain and Europe, generate economic growth and bring development to the island’s tourism industry. As part of the deal, several marketing initiatives will be implemented on the airline’s website and social media channels, as well as in their in-flight entertainment and Iberia magazine, to push the flights and raise awareness.
Madrid and Puerto Rico are set to embrace multi-destination campaigns and offer competitive prices and packages to encourage people to travel more. Together, SJU and Iberia will reach its highest frequency of flights in over 20 years of being in business. We look forward to welcoming travelers to the island while revolutionizing the tourism industry and economy.
From 10 million passengers, privatization, modernization, pandemic response, and countless awards, Aerostar is flying high into its 10th anniversary.
Aerostar and SJU have changed dramatically over the past decade. Still, our mission remains the same – to operate a first-class airport that serves as an international gateway and point of connection to the rest of Latin America and beyond. Our teams made incredible efforts to become the Aerostar that you know today. We are proud to provide the highest safety, security standards, and customer service excellence that our people deserve. Here’s a glimpse into some of our stellar achievements from the beginning to the present.
Modernization and Privatization
So much has changed from our humble beginnings to today. In 2013, we started a new chapter in our story by successfully privatizing San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU) under the long-term and public-private partnership with Aerostar, an over $296 million investment. In agreement with the Puerto Rico government, the airport will share the annual revenue of 5-10% for lease payments. As agreed upon with the FAA and Commonwealth government, our mission is to modernize the airport and rehabilitate it to maintain the Part 139 Certificate.
Aerostar came in with a hammer and implemented incredible changes such as chopping down trees around the ILS, redesigning the inside of the Airport, adding new jetways, implementing a state-of-the-art baggage screening system, supporting locals by bringing in new stores, and more! The renovations were constantly undergone while the airport worked through Hurricane Maria and the pandemic. Even so, international cargo and passenger traffic has continuously increased by 230% since 2013.
Today, Aerostar is renovating terminals, implementing expansion plans, runway reconstructions, and other technological advancements, such as the speeding identification process from CLEAR. The P3 Projects underway such economic competitiveness, protecting infrastructure, smart technology, and private sector investments. The mentioned projects will help the airport generate more revenue, continue an excellent working environment, and surpass the projected 17.9 million passengers by 2024.
Milestones and Awards
Construction starting date: In 1946, the first construction permits were approved, following construction in 1947. Finally, on May 22, 1955, the airport was inaugurated and named after the first governor elected by the people.
Contract Signing Day Aerostar: On February 27th, 2013, SJU became the first International Airport in the US with a P3 administration model.
Commercial Industrial Impact Award: Granted by the Builders Association of Puerto Rico in 2016.
Excellence Award for Airport Training: Granted by the American Association of Airport Executives (”AAAE”) ANTN Digicast in 2016.
Air Carrier Airport Manager of the Year Award: The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) was awarded to the airport in 2016.
Best Operational Project Award: In 2017, the award was granted by the P3 Awards.Content
24HR reestablishment of operations: After Hurricane María in 2017, the airport was able to get back on its feet and open operations to aid in the recovery of Puerto Rico.
Pandemic Response: In 2021, the airport was able to place action safety protocols to keep passengers and workers safe.
10.3M passengers!: This past 2022, SJU hit the highest record of passengers.
These past ten years have flown by!
Aerostar is incredibly proud to serve over 10 million passengers, the community, and appreciates the ongoing support.
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