The last 2 years have been a huge learning experience. The rate of learning has actually been increasing the last 6 months and the PNP 5000 week was a good test.
Our original premise when creating PNP was to transport animals to safety by aviation. It was conceived as a win-win for everybody. We could save animals that would otherwise be euthanized. We pilots now had a good reason to fly. And best of all, unlike the $100 hamburger runs our expenses could be treated as charitable donations.
As I got into flying animals I started slow, carrying one or two pups. The more I flew, the more I realized with more or better crates I could do better than fly one or two pups, so I started to increase the number I carried. It helped that rescues who needed the transports had more than one or two available if I could fit them in the plane.
Four crates seemed to be my maximum for a while until I figured out how I could stack crates and secure them with a combination of seat belts and shipping straps. Now, except when I need my largest crates, I can stack as many as 9 or 10 small to medium crates. Then the rescues I flew routinely for figured out if two or more pups would get along with each other they could share crates. The accomodations aren't as roomy, but for the length of a flight to safety they would be fine.
The next level of learning brought me to my current state of knowledge. When transports are being planned, if one rescue cannot fill the plane, we seek out other rescues and we compromise on the airports picking airports somewhat central to the participating rescues. So the rescues have to drive to a little more distant airport to meet up with me and other rescues, but we can better utilize the available space, moving far more animals than would otherwise be possible. In that way the primary goal of saving the greatest number of animals is being met.
The benefits extend beyond the number of animals saved. Now we start functioning like teams. I have noticed rescues generally pair up. A sending rescue almost always sends animals to the same receiving rescue. But now to better use the space in the plane, two sending rescues (or more) begin working together to match up their pups to fully load my plane. I have had as many as four separate rescues bring animals for a transport, and we all worked together as a team to make sure no animals were left behind. The coordination effort is high initially, but once we all do a few transports together and everybody knows how to cross communicate the effort to pull off a complex transport is greatly reduced.
So what does this mean to us pilots? It means we can do a lot of good with less costs. The PNP statistics for me are the proof.
I went to 7 cities, 6 from Knoxville (my home base), and one from Chattanooga about 70 NM away. The cities I transported to were Joliet IL (2 transports), Chicago, Fort Wayne, Jamestown NY, Lancxaster PA, and Greensboro NC.
I covered over 5000 miles, flew 40 hours (engine running time), and transported 69 dogs. The dogs ranged in size from a Dobie down to a Chihuahua that I could hold in one hand. The sizes were mostly in the 15 to 25 pound range with a couple over 50 pounds and a few under 10. No pups were left behind because they were too big just to get larger numbers. One flight had 4 pups, and one had 17. The numbers varied because the size of the pups and how well they socialize determines the size of the crates, and despite the spread between the numbers, the plane was full on every flight.
As you can see from the city pairs above the flights were not short ones. 400 NM one way was typical with some longer and some shorter. Despite the distances covered I had .58 hours invested in each pup saved. When people ask how I can justify the cost of flying pups it is real easy to put the cost in that context, and with an average fuel cost of about $4.30 a gallon, and 18 gallons per hour actual fuel burn my direct cost per animals saved is $45.
The exact same philosophy can be used regardless of the type of plane flown. Fill the plane to the max with animals and the average cost to save a life drops significantly. What makes me feel great about this long learning process is that it has brought me to the point where I can have a significantly greated impact on the lives of animals and spend less per animal in the process. Factor in the tax benefits and the costs in real terms are even less.