Posted on: 25 March 2016
If you have always wanted to learn how to fly and enjoy participating in charity projects, you can combine those interests by becoming a licensed pilot and getting involved in volunteer organizations that provide free flights to those in need. You can choose from government-sponsored or non-profit organizations that have a need for civilians who have earned a private pilot license. The following primer provides you with an overview of how to get your license and the type of organizations that need volunteer pilots.
Private Pilot Training
The first step to becoming a volunteer pilot is finding a federally-certified pilot school. The Federal Aviation Administration certifies flight schools and sets the guidelines for civilians to become pilots.
No matter what school you choose, in order to obtain a pilot's license, you must undergo 40 hours of flight training and pass the FAA's written exam. However, it may take you more hours, as much as 70, for you to learn how to fly an aircraft successfully. You will learn how to fly solo and at night.
A typical private pilot course also includes classroom instruction to prepare you for the written test and provides you with exam study materials.
In addition to flight training and an exam, you must also pass a physical administered by an FAA-approved aviation medical examiner. You will have to schedule the physical on your own and the cost is separate from your flight training. The FAA provides an online database of approved medical examiners.
If you have a background in healthcare, you may be interested in volunteering for organizations that need pilots to transport patients from rural hospitals to major medical centers.
Some non-profits provide free flights for patients who need emergency care, organ transplants, cancer treatment and follow-up visits at hospitals that are far away. You will fly small unpressurized aircraft to transport patients and medical personnel.
Depending on the organization you volunteer with, you may end up transporting passengers to hospitals within the state or to major medical institutions in another part of the country.
Search and Rescue Flights
When you see news reports of search and rescue flights trying to find people that need help in rural areas after avalanches or other natural disasters, you may be surprised to learn that the pilots in the aircraft during the searches are sometimes civilian volunteers.
The federally-sponsored Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is an auxiliary of the Air Force and accepts civilians to help in search and rescue missions. CAP also provides assistance to the Red Cross and law enforcement organizations during emergencies that require airlifts. Over 34,000 adults are members of CAP. Once you earn your pilot's license, apply for membership at your local CAP chapter.
When you take part in CAP missions, you get to fly Cessna 172 and 182s, single-engine light airplanes. Only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can join CAP. You must also submit fingerprints for an FBI background check and pass a flight test as well as a written test to qualify as a CAP pilot.
Animal Rescue Flights
If you love animals, there are several volunteer organizations that need trained pilots to transport rescued and sick creatures.
Some animals will need to be transported to new owners after rescue operations in rural areas. Animals that are sick and injured may need a flight to a veterinarian or clinic for an operation or specialized care.
In many cases, dogs that are rescued from kill shelters and cruel situations will need a flight to individuals that have agreed to adopt the canines. Depending on your mission, your flight may include transporting several animals in single-engine aircraft.
When you are ready to flex your skills in the cockpit, peruse the list of organizations compiled by the Volunteer Pilots Network to find a non-profit in your area that suits your interests. For more information about obtaining your pilot license, visit websites like http://www.parkland.edu/aviation.Share