I'm glad we were able to complete this transfer on Thursday.
It was a huge disappointment for me and Wes (who flew the VA -> PA leg) that after all the effort put into this transport we had to leave some of the dogs behind. The carriers were not of the size specified during our numerous exchanges leading up to the flight and would not fit on the planes. I'm still a bit perplexed as to why the pilots were not notified when it was clear none of the crates were of the dimensions previously confirmed by email, on the phone, and on the flight sheet that was distributed to all involved. The size of the carriers was critical given the different aircraft used on this transfer.
Even at 4:00am, which is when I started my day to get ready for the first leg of this trip, I could have stopped by a Walmart and picked up something that would have allowed all 8 of the dogs on the flight. Your volunteer Wilma, who met me at the field with the dogs for the NC -> VA leg after we repositioned to Sanford, indicated she would have happily done the same. All it would have taken was a phone call.
There also appeared to be some communication issues with the receiving party. When I called to give them an updated arrival time once the dogs were transferred in VA, and mentioned we only had 6 (of the 8) dogs on-board, they were surprised and somewhat concerned by the change. Should it have been the pilot's responsibility to communicate this news?
As a volunteer pilot I'd like to remind sending & receiving parties:
1) A successful transfer is a partnership. We (pilots) are not a livery service. We are volunteering our time and resources just as you have generously and lovingly provided as rescuers and fosters.
2) Please be respectful of the information we request prior to a flight. The details are needed to configure the airplane before leaving our home base (i.e. possibly removing seats), for weight and balance calculations, for flight planning, and to avoid incidents such as the above. Our objective is a safe and successful transfer of the dogs, and ourselves.
3) Multi-leg transfers require a lot of coordination. A good amount of communication takes place behind the scenes amongst the pilots to make these work. We try to make it look easy ... but staying on task so we can focus on flying, safety, and keeping to a schedule, instead of dealing with avoidable issues like this on the day of the flight, is a huge help. Sometimes it makes sense to assign a point person from each side (pilot and rescuer) who is responsible for communicating amongst their team. This is to keep communication targeted and to a minimum (i.e. it may not be necessary to include every pilot on every email exchanged amongst every sending and receiving party). An example: on one transfer the 4 pilots involved were copied on over 92 emails ... the information we needed to piece together the transfer was in 3 of the messages. It was difficult to keep track of what we were transporting and where we were going.
4) A difference in crate size of 10" (or even 5") can be a make or break deal in many of our small airplanes. Any change in transfer plans should be immediately communicated to the pilot(s).
5) Please do not forget we too are animal lovers ... that happen to be pilots. Leaving dogs behind is just as disturbing to us as it would be to a rescue group.
Let's learn from this experience and move on to the next transfer!