How it Works

As you might guess, coordinating Lucky Dog Rescue Flights is no easy task. If the passenger is a person, how well does he walk? Is he able to maneuver into the plane? Is he extremely fragile? Do we need to transport special medical equipment? What about family members? Is there one pilot, or multiple pilots doing different legs of the trip? Will someone meet us at the destination airport? Who can fly when? Will the weather cooperate?

Transporting four-legged passengers is even more complicated. There may be several pilots taking turns to transport animals cross-country, or even a combination of planes and automobiles.

Michael described it best, in a write-up he contributed for an FAA magazine:

It starts out with a need… a puppy mill is busted in Sioux Falls with more than 150 dogs. Then the search for the solution… where to foster all these puppies? Three beautiful and sweet German Shorthair boys have an offer in New Jersey. Now comes the logistics scramble: three medium sized dogs and 1,000 miles. Soon a torrent of emails is flying around with pilots volunteering to help. Trying to organize the offers into an actual date with specific pilots flying to definite airports at designated times. Some can do Saturday, some Sunday. Ohhhhh! Who said they were available and when? Time to put an itinerary with places, people, distance, speed and times. Substitutions when one drops out. Can two pilots cover what was scheduled for three? A last minute new entry into the plan saves the day!

The night before. Now it is the weather! Will the thunderstorms clear by flight time in the morning? What is plan "B"? More emails flying.

Flight day… it won't be pretty but it is going to happen! A front in the west is breaking up into localized cells as the trip moves east. The schedule slips a little but the trip pushes on! I get to Maquoketa, Iowa, and Jim lands a little while later with the boys. We run them over to some grass and let them stretch and lift their legs. They look happy (and hopefully this averts a problem in the plane). We load up and off we go! We are now "Animal Rescue 57825." Do I hear ATC smiling when we check in? We get our clearance to Detroit Grand Ile and climb up to 15,000 feet. ATC wants us to go to 17,000 to get over O'Hare traffic… okay, the boys will just be a bit drowsy up there. Well, not everybody. One of the curious boys noses his way into the right seat at enjoys the view. A little nuzzling my way and he settles down to watch how the gadgets work. Over the top of O'Hare and across the lake. Everybody in the back is interested, but relaxed. We begin our descent, dodging isolated rain clouds here and there. The boys get up to watch as we glide down over Lake Erie, where the boaters can be seen darting around. Down into the pattern and taxi to the ramp where Pam is waiting with her plane. A little more time to stretch the legs and off they go. I send out the message they are on leg number four of five.

I get back in the plane to depart. It's just a little too quiet with just me. How amazing that in less than a couple short hours I get attached to these sweet little creatures! Oh well, they are on their way to happy futures. Back to Chicago 'til the next time I get to meet some new friends.

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