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Flying to Help Others, Legal Matters for Volunteer Pilots

The videos of the devastation wrought by the March 2019 flooding in Nebraska and Iowa are stunning. The images of selfless general aviation pilots flying supplies into the stranded and evacuating the newly homeless are heartening—and reflect two secrets of GA that deserve massive publicity: Pilots are always among the first to volunteer to help in the aftermath of a disaster, and a community’s airport is often its only lifeline to the outside world following a cataclysmic event.

Ever since the end of World War I disgorged scores of surplus airplanes into the civilian market, pilots have been volunteering their time, skills, and aircraft to help others. The floods of 1936 that wiped out much of the surface transportation infrastructure of New England highlighted the value of airplanes, volunteer pilots, and local airports for humanitarian aid. World War II saw the birth of Civil Air Patrol, with general aviation pilots assisting with the war effort. After the war, Charles Lindbergh made high-profile flights to draw attention to environmental and conservation issues. By the 1970s, nonprofit public benefit flying organizations were forming to connect volunteer pilots with those who needed their help for missions including medical transport through disaster relief, protection of natural resources, and moving at-risk animals. READ MORE (AOPA)