a reason to fly?
Malcolm Dickinson, CFI
wish I flew my airplane more, but the "hundred dollar hamburger"
rarely has enough draw to get me to drive to the airport.
I need a reason to fly. If
not for personal or business transportation, or training, then what?
The answer: volunteer
flying. There are people out there
who NEED you to fly your airplane, and some of them will pay for your fuel!
Here are a few of these organizations.
Coast Guard and the Air Force both have established auxiliaries.
Civilians can join these non-profit groups without making any sort of
military commitment. Members of these auxiliaries, once qualified, can fly their
own airplanes on approved missions and get reimbursed for fuel and maintenance
expenses. That's right, the
government will pay you to fly their missions for them, based on the size of
your engine! Here is a sample
of the current reimbursement rates: $57/hour
for 140-199hp, $67/hour for 200-235hp, and $72 an hour for 236-300hp.
the case of the Air Force Auxiliary, called Civil Air
Patrol, they do two distinct types of flying:
emergency services and cadet orientation flights.
The first involves searching for airplanes that have crashed, boats that
have foundered, or missing persons. The
second involves giving flights to teenaged members of the program, who are
usually highly motivated to learn how to fly.
You don't need to be a CFI to give a kid a ride, let them take the yoke
for a few minutes, and really make their day!
the case of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, they fly regularly scheduled safety
patrols each weekday afternoon during the pleasure boating season.
This involves flying over the local pleasure boating area looking out the
window for boats that might be in distress.
Less frequent missions include moving USCG VIPs from place to place;
getting helicopter parts from one Air Station to another; and Marine
Environmental Patrols (looking for oil spills, illegal dumping, etc.).
Besides reimbursable flying, there are other advantages to joining one of these
organizations. These include:
of the PX / BX at military bases.
to take military correspondence courses for free (some of these carry credit
towards associates, bachelors, and even masters degrees).
of the uniform of the associated service (with slight alterations to designate
you as a member of the auxiliary).
expenses involved with your participation (uniforms, unreimbursed flights, dues,
car) are tax deductible.
See my page on
See my page ontax deduction information for volunteer pilots
the case of Civil Air Patrol, you can get checked out in their local Cessna 172,
and then can rent it for recurrent training at a low hourly rate (about $40, a much lower rate than you can operate your own
What's the catch? Well, some significant time must be dedicated to the
organization in order to get qualified. Usually
a local group.
and paying dues (approx. $30/year).
a uniform (a used NOMEX flight suit costs
may want to install an antenna hookup for the special radio (CAP uses ham band,
CG Aux uses marine band).
may want to buy a handheld ham or marine band radio to use in your airplane
mandatory training, sometimes involving a swim test, annually.
a checkride with one of the organization's instructor pilots.
can be reimbursed only for flying the missions that they ask you to fly.
local unit may or may not be full of interesting, personable characters with
whom you would enjoy spending time. (There's
only one way to find out - go check it out.)
Contact the auxiliary of the US Air Force, Civil Air Patrol, by calling 800-FLY-2338 or
to http://www.cap.af.mil and click on the
"Join CAP" button for information about the unit nearest you. Lots
of information about the organization can be found on this informative web site.
It can show you the name and phone number of the unit nearest
Call the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, at: 1-800-368-5647 (be sure to explain that you want information on the Auxiliary, not on the full-time Coast Guard!)
Or check out their web site at http://www.cgaux.org/cgauxweb/public/pubframe.htm . You can find out the name of the flotilla nearest you before you call. When you call, you should be able to get the name and phone number of the person in charge of that flotilla.
Angel flight from New Haven to Philadelphia, 1999
are hundreds of people across the country who need to get to hospitals for
medical treatment, and you can help. They
usually come to one of the following groups either because they can't afford an
airline ticket, or because they live hours from the nearest airport with
commercial service. I have flown
two patients, both with no outward symptoms, on 2-hour flights and both have
been thoroughly enjoyable experiences. The
people have always been very grateful and helping them on their way left me with
a good feeling. These organizations
help coordinate the flights, and of course you fly for them only when the
schedule of the patient happens to coincide with your schedule.
I have found that it's rare to be called by any one organization more
than once or twice a year, so I've signed up with several.
These groups do not provide any kind of reimbursement for the flying you
do; however, they do provide a charitable thank you letter, which allows you to
deduct the fuel and oil you used from your taxes as a charitable contribution.
Care Alliance (This is an umbrella organization that most volunteer medical
flying agencies belong to)
National Patient Air Transport Helpline
Flight Northeast [Includes NJ, NY, and New England]
Lawrence Municipal Apt
492 Sutton St
North Andover MA 01845-1505
600 W Germantown Pike Ste 400
Plymouth Meeting PA 19462-1046
Pilots Association [Pittsburgh area]
Larry Chome, President
PO Box 95
Hickory PA 15340-0095
tel & fax: 724-356-4007
Kevin Sell, Vice President: 412-221-1374 or 412-221-7596
for Children [Pittsburgh area]
2000 Smallman St
Pittsburgh PA 15222412-471-1267
[nationwide] , M-F
6133 Freeport Blvd
Sacramento CA 95822
916-429-2500 or 800-446-1231
fax 916-429-2166 firstname.lastname@example.org
know of two groups which use privately-owned aircraft to fly scientists,
environmentalists, and legislators over areas of protected wildlife and/or
forest. When you call and say you
have a Lake Amphibian, they are tickled, since you can go so many places where
their other pilots can't. I'm sure
there are more groups like this in other areas - call these two and ask.
You know you are making a difference.
Flights are typically over beautiful wooded areas.
You may get to do water landings depending on the need of the flight.
If you fly for LightHawk, they will reimburse you for fuel & oil.
There aren't a huge number of missions, so you don't get called very
often. Also, there may not be any
missions in your area.
Wings [Environmental Preservation; New England and upstate NY] email@example.com
C. Rudy Engholm, President
RR2, 2084A Gurnet Rd
Brunswick ME 04011
tel 800-445-795 or 207 729-9678
Fax: 207 721-0228
[Environmental preservation; mostly in the Rockies, the Pacific northwest, CA,
The Presidio Bldg 1007
PO Box 29231
San Francisco CA 94129-0231
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has a program where members of local EAA
chapters fly children in their aircraft to give them a sense of the wonder of
flight. This is a real
"ambassador" program where we turn on the next generation of pilots.
There are dozens of tales of private pilots or airline pilots who first
got inspired to fly when they were kids, through the kindness of an older
Easy to do. Depending on
your area, the local chapter may have lots of activity / lots of opportunities
to fly kids. The smiles on the
faces of the kids are a great reward. No uniforms are required.
You have to join EAA (about $30/year).
PO Box 3086
Oshkosh WI 54903-3086
are probably other volunteer flying opportunities in your local area.
Try one and see if you like it. If
it turns out to be "not for you," chances are that another one of
these groups will more likely fit the bill.
Please email me if you have additional information that should be included on this page.