‘Cheeseburger’ saved in paradise – AOPA
Time was running out for temporary pets in Greenville County, South Carolina, as the animals were not adopted locally and shelters were overcrowded. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says about 6.5 million pets enter animal shelters nationwide and about 1.5 million are euthanized. The problem is most acute in the Southeast, and this is where public interest flight organizations such as Schneider’s, Dog Is My Copilot, and Pilots N Paws often come into play. time, plane, and resources to help find future homes for the furry friends. They do it out of love, out of dedication to others, and out of a sense of accomplishment.
“I knew I wanted to combine my love of aviation and animal rescue, ”Schneider said as the plane passed through the afternoon turbulence over the Blue Ridge Mountains as its cargo mewed, barked. , panted, paced or slept during the three hour flight at 7000 hours. feet to Essex County Airport in New Jersey.
Josh Cochran, AOPA’s live video producer, and I joined Schneider to see what it was like to fly a six-seater plane filled to the headliner with dozens of legs and wagging tails. I flew a Pilots N Paws rescue mission when I lived in Atlanta, and it was one of the most rewarding aviation experiences I have had. Our trip started at Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland, a stop along the route from Schneider’s home base near New York to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for pickup.
I chose – perhaps wrongly – to accompany Schneider to the front as a “co-pawlet” on the first leg so that we can discuss in the relatively calm time between reconnaissance of air traffic control instructions. However, that meant I was relegated to the rearmost seat for the return trip. More information on this later.
Blue skies and puffy clouds doted our trip as Cochran and I learned about the organization that started in 2014 and grew after a $ 10,000 ASPCA grant in 2015.
It is obvious that Schneider, coordinator of training events, has found a new vocation in life. When his business-to-business livelihood disappeared with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Schneider began to devote more of his resources to helping others before deciding to make rescue missions his full-time pursuit. To date, it has transported endangered dogs, cats, turtles and wolves; it also transported people in need of medical transport.
On this trip, every move Schneider made was designed to keep the best interests of his “pawsengers” in mind. First, he determined an early morning departure time out of Caldwell, New Jersey, to allow for as smooth a return flight as possible this afternoon. Then he coordinated ground transportation to the pickup point to allow accurate pickup time with minimal waiting on a hot ramp.
Schneider, Sams and local rescue coordinator Jennifer Barnett worked quickly to load and secure the animal crates and keep them as cool and calm as possible on their first plane flights. The “Top Dawg” – it is printed on the microphone of Schneider’s helmet – has an IFR altitude of 7,000 feet to combine favorable winds, cooler temperatures in the cabin and minimal discomfort for the animals. “Anything over 8,000 feet hurts your ears,” he explained.
The turbocharged Saratoga easily handled the high-density takeoff from Ashe County Airport Runway 10, in front of a towering 4,710-foot-high ridge near the Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, not far from the snow ski mountain towns of Boone and Banner Elk. Although the animals are from South Carolina, the pickup was arranged for North Carolina to maximize the aircraft’s load carrying characteristics and expected fuel consumption.
I had a privileged position to observe that some of the animals weren’t too excited about their first general aviation flight, and they quickly made their discomfort known. It was then that I realized that taking pictures on the road from a rear point of view was really not a good idea. The aroma reminded me of when my brother Martin was doing what most kids do when they’re hot, tired and sick from transport and bumping over Georgia in their father’s Ercoupe – without the benefit of a barf bag. Fortunately, Schneider planned the event by placing a large plastic tarp along the floor of the Piper. Let’s just say that it has proven to be useful and will leave it at that.
The flight experience of the skilled instrument pilot began during a skydiving jump when he realized he was as curious about the flying part of his skydiving adventure as he was about the tandem jump. on the verge of doing. “I didn’t realize I liked aviation” until then, he said. A flight discovered in Ohio led to flying lessons at Sports academy. “I was one of those student pilots who took a little longer. I think it took me two years and 100 hours ”to get a private pilot’s certificate. He has accumulated 600 hours and is pursuing a commercial pilot’s license.
Schneider said he became addicted to rescue work after he and his friend Brian Orter rescued a litter of abandoned puppies in North Carolina and delivered them to loving families in the Northeast. “I flew with N Paws Drivers, a large public utility organization, but I wanted to be an entrepreneur, ”he explained. “I wanted to create my own thing, [because] I wanted to get on bigger planes, and saw the creation of a 501 (c) (3) charity as a way to do it.
He founded Pilots to the rescue after encouragement from a life coaching organization that teaches members to follow the one thing they always wanted to do.
“This organization no longer concerns me. The way we are developing this mission is to save more animals and to fly in the general public interest, ”he said. Rescue pilots make other flights when possible. “We work quite often with Angel Flight East to do the medical flights, and we work with a large organization at Norwood Memorial Airport in Massachusetts called Over the clouds. They organize discovery flights for foster children. He said “evolving the operation by working with other pilots” is the goal of the organization as new opportunities arise.
“We are actually talking to The dog is my co-pilot, ”The animal rescue organization in Jackson, Wyoming, founded by orthopedic surgeon Peter Rork that focuses on rescues in western states. “Dr. Rork is an amazing guy and I admire him. They’ve been around for 10 years, and he’s still stealing that [Cessna] 206 Stationair. They’re a little further ahead of us, but it would be great to coordinate with him on bigger missions. Schneider said he hoped to upgrade to a Cessna trailer.
Schneider is launching a new self-service carpooling system which should be operational soon. Shelters or public utility organizations can post assignments and pilots can bid. The organization saved more than 500 animals in 2021 and plans to save 1,000 by December 31. He reminded potential volunteer pilots that due to FAA compensation rules, private pilots are required to pay for rescue flights out of their own pocket and figure out what the party is. deductible on their personal income tax returns. It’s a good idea to bring in a helper to help with pet control if the need arises. Airmen can participate in missions by registering on the site.
At her home airport, a welcoming team of Justine McConnell and Lorri Caffrey from Mount. Nice animal shelterand Laurie Fasinski from Jersey Shore Wildlife Center, welcomed the animals with open arms and open vans after Schneider rolled the Turbo Saratoga SP into the shed before sunset. Oohs and ahs were accompanied by hugs, soft pats and furry kisses after the animals had a moment to stretch out and tidy up.
“These animals are highly adoptable and the pilots have a big impact,” Caffrey said. “If we can help even an animal become adopted, it’s like being part of our family. The staff are delighted to see an animal emerge so quickly into a new family. “
Behind her, Schneider crouched on the hangar floor and set up her iPhone for a live video segment on Instagram. He answered questions about the new arrivals on May 19 on the eve of National Rescue Dog Day and shouted at the Bissell Pet Foundation, which facilitates the logistics of second chance pets.
Schneider said he believed the animals knew they were being saved. “They usually come from overcrowded shelters in North Carolina, South Carolina and sometimes Tennessee. The conditions are not always so good and we get them out of that situation, so the animals are usually very excited.
He said that having at-risk animals fly to their “forever homes” is a noble gesture for many pilots, and it comes with the satisfaction of selflessly sharing the love of flying with members of the local community. Schneider said that using a private pilot certificate “to give back is extremely rewarding, whether it’s animals or people. It really leads to a feeling of accomplishment as a pilot because you put your experience to good use. “