Rescues, Prepare for Takeoff

Friday, September 23, 2016

Adoptable adorables get airborne with Pilots to the Rescue



The word impossible doesn’t mean much to Michael Schneider. The New York City-based independent media sales representative was given a challenge during a motivational seminar to pick a big goal, fund it, and launch it—within 48 hours. “It had to be something you’ve always wanted to do, but you think it’s not the right time or you don’t have the money,” he says. “My impossible goal was Pilots to the Rescue.”

Michael had a vision for a nationwide network of pilots flying rescued animals from kill shelters to no-kill shelters and foster homes until they could be adopted. It’s an idea based on his previous volunteer work with Pilots and Paws, which flies at-risk rescues to safer havens. “Pilots and Paws is great,” Michael says, “but I wanted to create an organization where pilots could get more involved in coordinating their missions and work directly with shelters.”

A big goal, and definitely not something that could be put together in one weekend. Unless you’re just not that into “can’t.”

Flying high

“The first question everyone asks is ‘Why fly animals if you could drive them?’” Michael says. After all, Pilots to the Rescue’s volunteer flyers generally soar the skies in single-engine prop planes that fit five to ten animals per flight. “Considering that over four million animals are euthanized per year, it’s true that we are only scratching the surface. But we can get ten puppies from a kill shelter in Texas to a no-kill shelter in Vermont that has space for them. Most important, we’re raising awareness about rescues and adoption with every flight.”

And speaking of awareness and flight, these missions, says Michael, are surprisingly calm. “A lot of the animals just go to sleep when the engine comes on. The biggest issue I’ve has is when animals get untethered; you’re flying and suddenly there’s a dog licking your neck. One time I reached down between the seats for a part called the trimwheel, and instead it was a dogwheel because a pup thought that was a good place to rest his head.”

Mission impossible, accomplished

As you can probably tell from Michael’s can-do attitude, he did do it—within one weekend, Pilots to the Rescue went from dream to reality. “My goal was to raise $10,000 to fund the project, and we actually raised $12,000!” Since then, Pilots to the Rescue has also received funding from the ASPCA, and contributions can be made through Amazon’s Smile program and Wooftrax (look for Pilots to the Rescue), as well as by donation. Michael gives at least $10,000 a year of his own money, as well as his time, and all of his pilots are very happy volunteers.

“These missions are so rewarding for us,” he says. “I get to combine my love for aviation with animal rescue. It’s amazing, when you stop making excuses and just go into action, what can be done. People can change the world.”

For more, visit Pilots to the Rescue on their website,

on Facebook,

and on Instagram @pilotstotherescue


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