Long-distance transports: advice for rescuers

This Forum contains guidelines and helpful tips contributed by Pilots N Paws members to help with the rescue transport process.

Long-distance transports: advice for rescuers

Postby waderoberts on Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:37 pm

Long-distance, multi-leg flights can take a frustrating amount of time to get coordinated. A change in weather or a mechanical issue on a single leg can cause the whole thing to fall apart. Most PnP pilots seem to be VFR-only (requiring certain conditions to fly), and the majority seem only able to fly on weekends. The range of most seem to be 250-350 nautical miles; if a pilot flies a 350nm leg, he/she almost always needs then to fly 350nm back home (though you do sometimes luck into finding pilots who are flying long cross-country flights). Most easily arranged transports seem to be one- to two-leg, one day, <700nm.

For transports of more than 700-some-odd nm, the need for one or more overnight stays en route is entirely likely. This means finding a pilot willing to board or arranging for a volunteer boarder for one or more nights. I’ve been involved in a few lengthy transports in which the animals had to be boarded en route for up to two weeks (weather, mechanical issues, or simply between weekend legs).

I fly these missions because I love animals (I have five rescue dogs of my own). The well-being of my transports is paramount to me. Long multi-leg transports by air can be very stressful, and transferring between aircraft and ground vehicles is not without dangers (on my second PnP mission, a collie panicked while the handler was getting her out of the car, slipped the restraint, and ran back and forth across a tower-controlled active runway for an hour before we could corral her; it ended well, but it very well might not have). And boarding en route can be stressful, and sometimes difficult to arrange. The weather can be an issue, too. During the summer, many of the southern coastal states are prone to thunderstorm systems; during the winter, many mid and northeastern states are prone to sleet, icing and snow. These can result in one or more legs being delayed or cancelled. And, in the summer, there can be a heat risk for the animal passengers, especially the very young or those with medical issues. Most piston general aviation aircraft are not air-conditioned. At cruise altitudes, things are generally comfortable. But on the ground, during taxi and take off, on descent, on approach, in the traffic pattern, and upon approaching to land in busy airspace like Houston, the temps can get mighty high, mighty quick, and remain there. For a single- or two-leg transport, it might not overly stress the animal passengers. For multi-leg, multi-day transports, the risks from heat are multiplied.

I would urge you to consider and weigh all the options for long-distance transports, including ground transport and transport by commercial air, or a combination of PnP and ground transports. I know the latter can involve an expense, but . . . . I adopted my latest rescue dog from San Bernardino CA animal control. She had been adopted long-distance by a young woman in the Washington DC area, who tried to arrange transport through PnP. I signed up. After a couple of weeks with some legs unfilled, the woman got frustrated and backed out. The San Berdoo pound already had my name and number, and called to tell me that the pooch was going to be put down. I adopted her. Originally, I planned to fly to pick her up and bring her back, then I ran the numbers: 19 flight hours (solo, that meant two days there with an overnight stay en route, an overnight stay in CA, two days back with an overnight stay en route, three stops for refueling each way, and more than $1,000 in avgas). I was game, but I decided it would be too stressful for a dog right out of the pound. Found a ground transporter to pull her, and flew her to Houston via Continental’s PetSafe (still can’t bring myself to say United). Girl arrived in Houston in <4 hours, happy, tail wagging, and ready to meet the other four. Think it cost me $400. And it was best for her.

You know you can search on PnP, too, for commercial aircrews who are willing to transport gratis?

I certainly don’t mean to dissuade or disencourage you, because these things CAN work. I’ve been part of them. I’d just like to kindly suggest that you consider the stress and risk for our furry friends, and all of the alternatives. I'll certainly do anything I can to help you and your animals-in-need, and will happily fly.
Stephen Wade Roberts
N20223, Cessna 177B Cardinal II
Pearland (TX) Regional Airport (KLVJ)
cell: 312-806-8928
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Re: Long-distance transports: advice for rescuers

Postby RickG on Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:46 am

Great advice and well said. As a volunteer pilot I'd also like to add the following which I feel needs to be stated every once in awhile:

1) A successful transfer is a partnership. We (pilots) are not a delivery service. We are volunteering our time and resources to these animals just as you have generously and lovingly done so as rescuers and fosters.

2) Please be respectful of the information we request prior to a flight. Accurate details are needed to configure our airplanes before leaving our home base (i.e. possibly removing seats), for weight and balance calculations, and for flight planning. A last minute swap of crate sizes (of 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).

3) As Stephen stated, 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 is a huge help. Sometimes it makes sense to assign a point person from each side (i.e. 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) The requirement for interstate Health Certificates are not "at the discretion of the pilot" as I see on some posts. Each state has their own regulations (some more stringent than others) as they endeavor to protect their existing animal population from disease. Although unlikely we will run into ACO (Animal Control Officers) at the small airports we use, it has happened. The result: without the proper paperwork, pilots have been fined and the dogs confiscated. Details for each state can be found at the URL below:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports_states.shtml

5) Please do not forget we too are animal lovers ... that happen to know how to fly. We understand there is much compassion involved in these transports; however, the objective must always be safety first for the pilot and crew. Receiving notes when a flight is cancelled due to weather or other issues such as "if you don't make the flight the dog(s) will be killed" is downright inappropriate. I assure you we understand many of these animals are in a precarious situation which is why we are trying to be of help. A safe and successful transfer of the dogs, and ourselves, has to be the number one priority.
Durham NC (8NC8)
C172E, VFR Only
In The News: Flying To A New Life (September 2012)
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Re: Long-distance transports: advice for rescuers

Postby waderoberts on Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:27 pm

Rick,

Great additions!; thanks kindly.

Come to think of it, I'd also add:

-- Use all the tools available through the Pilots N Paws website. Rescuers can search for and private-message pilots along the intended route, as well as search for space on scheduled transports. Be proactive, and thoroughly research, prepare and word your request. Instead of just requesting transport from, say, Miami to Los Angeles, look at a map and break it into possible legs and include that in your request: Possible legs: Miami-Tallahassee-Mobile-New Orleans-Houston-San Angelo-El Paso-Tucson-Los Angeles. Research and line up resources en route (volunteers fosters/boards/ground transport) in advance, in case weather/mechanical issues intervene or in case a ground transport could fill a missing leg.

-- Remember that we are pilots, with a lot of responsibilities in the days leading up to our flights: monitoring weather, preparing our planes, flight-planning, etc. The smoothest long-distance, multi-leg flights are those that are well coordinated by someone conscientious and well organized on the ground. As legs are filled/changed, post updates. Please include pilot name, type of aircraft, N#, contact details, legs (such as LVJ-NEW) and estimated departure/arrival times. The day before the transport, send out a detailed run-sheet, with those details listed in order of legs. Include names and contact details for all ground support (those delivering/picking up animals). Ensure that those on the ground know their way in advance to the airports and rendezvous points, and are on time. I recently found myself coordinating a couple of long-distance, multi-leg transports because we were combining multiple mission requests. It wasn't the best use of my time or skills; while I was working on pulling the threads together, there were a dozen missions that I didn't fly (but could have, had there been someone on the ground pulling these transports together). Not all of us us have the time to devote to coordination.

Let's hope this gets read.

It would be good to connect with you some day on a transport.

Best,
Wade
Stephen Wade Roberts
N20223, Cessna 177B Cardinal II
Pearland (TX) Regional Airport (KLVJ)
cell: 312-806-8928
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Re: Long-distance transports: advice for rescuers

Postby waderoberts on Sun Aug 18, 2013 2:22 pm

Until today, it never would have occurred to me to also include the following:

-- Importantly, NEVER stand up a pilot/flight. We spend a lot of time flight-planning, obtaining weather briefings, filing flight plans, and preparing our aircraft for these flights. I was scheduled for a rescue transport today from Houston-San Angelo, TX. Days ago, I enlisted an instrument-rated pilot friend to come along, in case we needed to file and fly instrument. It turned out not to be necessary, but he wanted to fly along anyway (a two-hour round-trip drive for him to my airfield.. After preparing the plane and flight planning yesterday, I got up at 3 a.m., checked the weather, got a briefing, and arrived at the hangar at 5 a.m. to do the pre-flight inspection. The dog was supposed to be delivered, as confirmed yesterday, at 5:30 for a 6 a.m. departure. At 6 a.m., with no ground transport in sight, I called the Houston rescuer. Her daughter, she said, had left with her boyfriend and the dog at 4 a.m.; she gave me their cell #s. Both calls went to voicemail. At 6:30, I called the receiving party in San Angelo to inform her that we had yet to take off, and that there was no word from the ground transporter. She said she would call some other Houston-area rescuers to see if she could learn anything. At 7 a.m., she called to let us know that the ground transporter had texted another rescuer much earlier that she "wasn't feeling comfortable." A total no-show. It would've been nice to have heard directly, and with some prior notice, not an hour AFTER scheduled take off. Sad thing is: I could have flown another transport with enough word in advance
Stephen Wade Roberts
N20223, Cessna 177B Cardinal II
Pearland (TX) Regional Airport (KLVJ)
cell: 312-806-8928
waderoberts
 
Posts: 458
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:29 pm
Location: Friendswood TX
Last Visit: Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:57 pm

Re: Long-distance transports: advice for rescuers

Postby admin on Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:52 pm

waderoberts wrote:Until today, it never would have occurred to me to also include the following:

-- Importantly, NEVER stand up a pilot/flight.


Wade, this is inexcusable. Certainly things can happen, i.e. an unfortunate accidents, sudden severe illness, etc but this is just rude and inconsiderate. If you would please, send a note to us at pilotsnpaws@gmail.com letting us know who the person/group was that left you stranded at the airport and we will remove them immediately from this forum board. As you have heard us state many times, it is a privilege, not a right, to ask our pilots for help and we thank each of you for the time you dedicate.

RESCUES, please realize the enormous gift our pilots extend to you. I realize that the majority do understand this but it bears repeating for those who might "forget" to come back to the forum or hit reply to a pilots message. Let us all be considerate of each other and pursue the passion that binds us all--helping the animals who are helpless.

Thank you,
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