Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960


Animal Rescue Flight

We all enjoy aviation whether it be a few laps in the pattern, a trip with friends for lunch or visiting family out of state. But, many pilots reach a point in their aviation career when they begin to wonder if there is something more. And, that's where charitable, humanitarian or compassionate flying can bring a new depth to your aviation adventures!

There are many types of compassionate flights, including taking patients to medical treatments, fish and wildlife monitoring and support of disaster areas. Today we are going to discuss some general considerations when flying these types of missions, and then talk more specifically about animal rescue flights.

When flying humanitarian missions extra consideration needs to be taken in ensuring the pilot, plane and weather are suitable for the task at hand.  The PAVE (Personal, Aircraft, enVironment, External pressure) mnemonic along with IMSAFE (Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotion) are great tools and easy to use.  Other concerns are to ensure that adequate time and fuel reserves are available.  It's often helpful to add extra time to your estimates to allow for delays that often occur. Extreme caution should be used to ensure that pilots do not fall prey to "get-there-itis" because of the nature of the mission. These points should also be stressed with your flight coordinators and passengers. 

Animal rescue flights are rewarding and enjoyable. The usual mission is to fly dogs from the southeastern United States to Minnesota. There is an overpopulation of dogs in the southeast due to local philosophies on spay/neuter, along with a lack of economic resources.  Here there is a need for animals for adoption, so it is a win-win situation.  Most flights consist of multiple legs, so coordination with all involved is crucial. Many missions are arranged independently, and also through 

Any pilot can take an animal rescue flight regardless of number of hours flown. An instrument rating is unnecessary, and there is no requirement for a copilot. Any airplane can be used including LSA. 

When flying legs with animals the call sign ARF may be used signifying to ATC that you are an animal rescue flight.  This call sign can be used whenever filing VFR or IFR flight plans, or when using Flight Following. The call sign should be used at first contact with ATC. When filing ICAO, the HUM code can be used signifying a humanitarian flight.

If these flights are between two 501c3 organizations they can be tax-deductible. Please consult with your tax advisor as to what is allowable.

Flying rescue animals can definitely be challenging, but is always rewarding. Nothing beats a great day of flying knowing you have helped animals find new homes and families!


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