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. 

Operation: Pilots and Animal Rescue

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. 

Operation: Pilots and Animal Rescue

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 from Visalia, 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. 

Operation: Pilots and Animal Rescue

High school students are leading the way into a new & innovative generation of aviation.

Imagine what it takes to learn how to fly! Studying to be a pilot in the aviation industry comes with many challenges, such as finding the right instructor, preparing for the infamous FAA exams, learning how to communicate with the tower, and being proficient in the latest tools—not to mention the high expenses. Such a heavy undertaking could dissuade many from becoming a pilot. 

However, today we are seeing the emergence of a new and innovative generation of aviators: high school students! Today, aviation chapters and numerous institutions and organizations around the U.S. are helping students acquire the knowledge and new tools needed to soar through the skies by offering real-world and hands-on experiences. Through these programs, students are thrown into trouble-solving situations and are better positioned to pursue their future careers in aviation confidently. 

A new generation of aviation students 

For example, students learn how to fly and maintain planes with a top-of-the-line flight simulator at North Augusta High School. With the help of instructors such as Travis Spears, students are having fun exploring flight opportunities and learning the pre-flight steps, how to handle issues, and how to fly safely before actually stepping onto a real plane. The course also offers students a curriculum written by Boeing and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and all of the necessary information needed to pass the FAA exam

North Augusta High School instructor Travis Spears stated, “Many people have this idea that aviation is this unattainable thing that is only available to rich people. Our program is designed to open up the opportunity to fly to everyone.” 

In June 2022, The Lone Star Flight Museum and The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, signed an agreement to push aviation learning into the community. Together, they installed an Aviation Learning Center (ALC) to inspire the pursuit of aviation in high school students and introduce them to the basic concepts of aerodynamics, traffic control, relevant math skills, engineering, and computer science. Additionally, the Texas aircraft company Mooney International Inc. will provide the museum with an aircraft where students can eventually practice their hard-earned skills hands-on. 

The center is also fighting to change the narrative of women in aviation. “In other countries, you see that 60% of engineers are women, whereas, in the U.S., it is only about 18%. This is a cultural thing. It’s my generation of parents that bring up their daughters to think it’s a man’s field, that math and science are not for girls,” stated Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, Director of the University of Houston’s STEM Center and Director/Co-Chair of the Education Committee of Lone Star Flight Museum.

A new generation of aviation students 

Likewise, this past July, the Women’s Air Race Classics (ARC) program was implemented for prospective female pilots ranging from 17-90 years old. The program aims to encourage and educate current and future women pilots, increase public awareness of general aviation, demonstrating women’s roles in aviation, and preserve and promote the tradition of pioneering women in aviation.

A new generation of aviation students 

Lastly, The Lakeland Aero Club is a non-profit flying club for high school students that teach all aspects of the aviation industry, including complete restorations and flight training. Through the club’s program, students gain hands-on training in building aircraft engines and gain full support until they are up in the air and flying. 

Programs like the ones mentioned above successfully prepare students with the latest technology and knowledge to prepare them in their quest to become future pilots. All of these associations and organizations are using FAA requirements, state of the art training, all in a dynamic, supportive, and safe environment. With the help of incredible instructors, students can fulfill their dreams and spearhead a new generation in aviation!