What Do Heroes Do When They’re Bored? These Two Fly At-Risk Dogs to Safety

When Jonathan Plesset and Brad Childs got pilot licenses in 2004, it didn’t take them long to get restless. Flying around the Pittsburgh metro area quickly became rather dull.

“I mean, how many times are you just going to fly around the city?” Childs told Lancaster Online. “We needed a mission.”

Get ready to like these two guys, because you will. I guarantee it. A mission finally found them, and it’s extraordinary.

Angels in the Air

Plesset and Childs now spend their weekends flying endangered pets to new homes where they will be safe — and they do it all for free. Their missions of mercy began in 2006 because of a bulldog named Monte.

A friend asked Childs to transport Monte to a new adoptive home in his plane. Though reluctant, Childs did the favor. When Monte managed to free himself from his harness and climb happily into Child’s lap mid-flight, a light bulb went off. Childs knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to use his plane to help animals.


Brad Childs and Jonathan Plesset, co-founders of PAART

Today, the unofficial rescue and relocation trips have morphed into a full blown nonprofit organization called the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team (PAART). Childs, Plesset and a collection of dedicated volunteers work together to move pets in dire need to places where they can find safe new homes.

PAART takes dogs and cats about to be euthanized in kill shelters, animals rescued from abusive situations, and other animals in need of relocation. When they’re not actively flying their fleet of four planes, PAART’s volunteers do a lot of fundraising. They need to keep the money coming, because donations enable them to provide this lifesaving service free of charge.

PAART also coordinates and receives donations of food and animal supplies which they stuff into their planes to drop off at the network of shelters and other rescue centers they work with. Watch a short video “dogumentary” that explains what PAART does here:

So far, PAART has rescued an estimated 700 dogs, plus a smattering of cats, ducks, a pig and a python. If there’s a pet in danger, PAART is up to the challenge.

“We literally look forward to this. I am so excited to wake up and fly this plane and do this wonderful thing and give a dog that doesn’t have a chance get a chance,” Plesset told CBS Pittsburgh.

Based out of the Allegheny County Airport near Pittsburgh, PAART transports animals within a range that spans Virginia to New York and westward Ohio. Rescue groups and individuals with animals needing this sort of help can reach out to PAART on its website.

When a rescue request is received, the two men who make upPAART say,”we verify the organization we are flying for and make sure the animals are going to either an approved shelter or to a rescue that has already arranged to house or transfer the animal.” PAART can only transport, it cannot house the animals en route.

loading puppies

Flight team volunteers load up puppies en route to a new home.

“We pray they don’t destroy the plane although we did lose a seat once to a Great Dane. He decided to eat the co-pilot’s seat,” Plesset told LancasterOnline.

Occasionally, PAART takes on a mission that’s a bit more secretive, like one they flew a few months ago. They worked with an unnamed but very kind volunteer to save three pit bulls from a dogfighting ring.

“We couldn’t tell anyone where or what we were doing,” Plesset told the Huffington Post. “A good Samaritan got the dogs and rushed out to the plane and met us. We needed to get off the ground in a hurry since the fight people were headed out to intercept [the dogs] from the person who took them.”

Plesset still remembers those three desperate dogs, all of whom survived. In particular, he thinks of one. Despite grievous wounds, he told the Huffington Post, “it still had that cute doggie smile. It still makes me tear up when I think about looking at that dog and seeing that friendly face in such a beat up body.”

A Chance at Life

Giving animals like these a fresh start at a decent life makes it all worthwhile to the volunteers at PAART.

the PAART flight team

Meet the wonderful volunteer pilots and coordinators of PAART.

“It does get emotional,” Plesset told LancasterOnline. “Sometimes when we pick them up, they’re hours from euthanization. Then when you drop them off, you know they’re going to be adopted or at least go to a shelter that’s better suited to handle them. That’s a good feeling a small mitzvah.”

Childs and Plesset have day jobs that keep them busy. Yet, despite that, they continue to devote their weekends to this very special cause. The do it for the animals.

“They have a chance at life. That’s what we’re here for,” Childs told CBS Pittsburgh. Plesset agrees. The lesson here? If you’re an animal lover, do something to help them. You’ve got a talent or ability that you can use. Get out there and use it.

“It doesn’t take much to get yourself in a position to help even one animal,” Plesset told the Huffington Post. How right he is.

Photo credit (all images): Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team Facebook Page


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jennifer Hayes
Jennifer H4 years ago

What a great story. I am so happy that these two guys realized that they could do so much good with a fun hobby. There really is a great need for volunteers to transport in-danger animals. My thanks to Jonathan and Brad.

Jacqueline GLYDE4 years ago


Jacqueline GLYDE4 years ago

Bless these people,reading this has just put my faith back in mankind.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore4 years ago

These men and women truly are Earth bound angels! If kids and dogs AREN'T among those whom He considered to be among the "least of these, my brethren," then who or what qualifies?!

Nola C.
Nola C4 years ago

These are what real men look like! Thank you Brad and Jonathan, as well as the rest of your team, for all you do to help save lives, and give these animals a second chance. The world needs a lot more people like you guys. May God bless you with long lives, and good flying weather!

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson4 years ago

Thank you, you are aptly named Angels (of the Air)

John B.
John B4 years ago

Thanks Susan for the wonderful article and video. Kudos to Mr. Plesset and Mr. Childs and all the dedicated volunteers at PAART for their kind and caring work.

Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

Live long and prosper

JL A4 years ago

Kudos to them!