AOPA Insurance customer uses airplane to carry rescue dogs

steve sweeney

Steve Sweeney describes learning to fly as his “22-year excursion,” as he took his first lesson in 1973 but didn’t earn his private pilot certificate until 1995. And recently Sweeney has found his true passion in volunteer work. Working with a group called Wings of Rescue, Sweeney transports rescue dogs.

He has 2,800 hours of flying time, mostly in his first airplane, a Cessna 182. As a California-based, self-employed database business developer, he had need for greater speed. “What’s more, I always wanted a pressurized airplane,” Sweeney said, “so three years ago I traded up to a P210.”

His involvement with Wings of Rescue began when he received a letter in the mail about the organization, which transports rescue pets—mainly dogs—from one geographic area to another where the animals stand a better chance of being adopted, rather than euthanized. A future Wings of Rescue mission will fly 60 chihuahuas from Los Angeles to New York City.

Sweeney said, “My wife, Megan, told me that this is something we must do. I had always thought that once you have a pilot’s license, you have an obligation to share it so we called and volunteered.” Sweeney and his wife took part in their first airlift on Dec. 7, 2012.

Founded by AOPA members Cindy Smith and Yehuda Netanel, Wings of Rescue differs from other dog rescue organizations in that its goal is to consolidate missions from different pro-adoption groups in order to maximize the efficiency of the aircraft. In addition, Smith and Netanel have recruited larger airplanes to fly the rescue missions so that more dogs can be saved. Sweeney flew his mission in his Cessna P210, but a recent mission included a Piper Meridian, TBM, and King Air.

Whether making the entire trip, or serving as a feeder flight for a longer mission, Steve and Megan have thoroughly enjoyed the rescue flights. As for the dogs, Sweeney described them as “incredibly good passengers.” In sum, Sweeney said, “I love flying, I love my airplane and I love sharing it with the dogs.”

Thousands of AOPA members like Sweeney depend on AOPA Insurance Services to protect their aircraft. With such a valued asset carrying precious cargo—whether family, friends, or man’s best friend like Sweeney—pilots know they can rely on AOPA Insurance Services to understand their particular aviation needs and provide the security and protection they need. For a free, no-strings quote, go to the website.