It was my first mission for Pilots N Paws. I stumbled upon this wonderful organization through a Google search for “Rewarding ways to build hours.” I found Pilots N Paws. I was excited just looking at all the opportunities to combine my love for aviation and animals. My mother has one rule when I go flying “Stay in the state of Florida.” So I was searching for rescues within Florida. I came across a rescue that involved two dogs. Both of them were weimaraners. I also discovered that this request was made by Big Dog Ranch Rescue, a shelter that one of my best friends had adopted their weimaraner, Bob, from. This was such a wonderful opportunity because it stretched my mother’s boundaries from one corner of the state to the other. I was extremely excited the night before can could barely sleep.
In the morning, I had a scheduled departure time of 7:30 AM. I got to the airport around 7 AM and was ready to go. We departed on time and received our IFR clearance in the air. My instructor, Ismmar, and I were on our way for my first mission. We were given re-routes about 4 times along the way. The weather in Milton, Florida was at a low ceiling of about 700 agl and winds were calm. This made for an exciting RNAV (GPS) RWY 36 approach. The flight time was 3 hours and 30 minutes. Once we landed we taxied to a small FBO where the two weimaraners were awaiting us. They were happy to be walked around and especially happy to both be given a full bowl of fresh water. They both jumped right into their seats in the plane. Jet had the baggage compartment and Levi got the back seats.
We took off and picked up out IFR clearance to Kissimmee. Meanwhile, I look back and see Jet climbing from the baggage compartment into the two rear seats. We were on are way to Kissimmee, FL. We hit some weather about half way through the flight. Some mild turbulence and rain. Jet and Levi didn't mind. They were busy looking out the window the whole flight. When we began our descent into Kissimmee, Levi poked his head into the cockpit. He was staring out the front window. He put his head on my shoulder for a period of time. That is when the impact really hit me of what I was doing. I realized that I was saving these dog’s lives. They were scheduled to be put down in less than twelve hours if Pilots N Paws wasn’t there to save them. We landed and taxied to the FBO. I walked Jet and Levi into the FBO and the woman at the front desk asked me if Jet and Levi were mine. I told her no and explained Pilots N Paws to her. She was amazed at what we were doing. She smiled and you could tell that she was touched.
Lifeline Dog Rescue arrived and the looks on their faces were priceless. They were so happy to see their newest members of the Lifeline family. They immediately came up and gave me a huge hug and thanked me for what I had just done. I was so happy to know that Jet and Levi were going to a new safe home. Later, I looked on Lifeline’s Facebook page and saw some comments on a photo of me with Jet and Levi. Some of them read,” What a great kid....wow 14 and he flys planes. Way to go Huey...we thank you so much”, “Thank you, Hugh!!! You rock, dude....and bunches of doggie kisses to you, too.”, “Great job! I see amazing adventures ahead for Hugh!”, and many many more. I truly loved this experience and am really excited to complete many more missions!
Hugh J. O’Neil
Student Pilot, 14 years old