Answers for Pilots

Dog days of summer

August 1, 2004

Flying with your best friend

You can fly the summer skies with man's best friend, but whether you're still friends at the end of the trip is all in the preflight planning.

A veteran of mixing dogs with general aviation, Adam Walsh, AOPA aviation technical specialist, says the starting point is what you already know about Rover.

"Planning really depends on the temperament of the dog. If it's a hyper dog it can create problems in the cockpit...even if it's just playing," he says. "But a calm dog may just climb in the backseat and sleep."

The former may require a leash or carrier, and bringing a friend (two-footed) along for the flight may help entertain him with a tug-of-war session or two. The mellow dog, however, may not require much beyond a comfortable seat in which to doze.

Walsh has taken dogs along on his GA flights for years, first Ladybug, a miniature dachshund who was unlikely to be roused from her snooze during the flight, and then Weezee, a mid-size mutt that fares better if Walsh's sister comes along to assist.

Beyond planning for your dog's temperament, bring along a familiar toy or blanket and make sure those at your destination (family, friends, or hotel staff) are prepared for the extra guest. Numerous other tips are available on AOPA Online.

Ideally, take your dog on a short test flight so you see firsthand how he reacts to altitude changes or engine noise, for instance. Call ahead to ask where Rover should relieve himself upon landing, and don't step out of the airplane until you have him on a leash. "The last thing you need is the dog running across the field — they don't understand the hold-short line," says Walsh.

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AOPA Web resources

AOPA's "Flying With Pets" is packed full of tips to help make your flight enjoyable for you and your dog.