Air Transport: Pilots N Paws Volunteer Flies 3 Dogs To Rescue Ranch

Last week, three rescues, Lee, Hanna, and Gina, arrived at Rescue Ranch via air transport. Isslaam Abouremeleh is the young pilot who brought them to us. I asked him how he got involved with animal rescue. He explained that once he had his private license, he still had to meet FAA flight time requirements to become an airline pilot. He decided he could also use that time to “do good,” so he volunteered to transport animals. But, as I discovered, there’s more to his story than flight hours.

Second chances

When Isslaam was 15, his father was diagnosed with dementia and sadly died three years later. Isslaam went into the system after his dad got sick, but he was fortunate despite the circumstances: he got the support he needed. The help he received from social workers and his foster parents inspired him to give back. One way he pays it forward is by volunteering to transport animals: “I was given a second chance at life, which is what I want to do for these pups.”

 Volunteer air transport

In 2021, Isslaam signed up with Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that connects animal rescuers with volunteer pilots through its website. Since then, he has flown about two dozen missions. He has also qualified for his commercial license and is now flying for Air Wisconsin Airlines, which operates for American Airlines as American Eagle. He lives in Washington but was flying out of Chicago until his recent transfer to Dayton, OH.

His first Pilots N Paws trip involved transporting a bunny from Bellingham, WA, to Temecula, CA. It took 24 hours round trip! At the time he was flying a Cessna 150, slower than his current Piper Arrow.  Once he acquired the new plane, he undertook longer trips, such as Abilene, TX, to Billings, MT, and back to Ellensburg, WA. He flew a puppy from Salt Lake City, UT, to Portland , OR, the day after he bought his plane.

He soon realized that by volunteering he was not only logging hours and contributing, he was gaining valuable experience. Coordinating with other pilots sometimes delayed missions for weeks, so Isslaam took to doing entire trips himself. This meant dealing with changing weather over hundreds, even thousands, of miles. It was good training for decision-making under pressure, like weighing mission completion against weather conditions. It’s the pilot who decides when cutting a trip short is the safe and sound decision. As a result, he’s stayed in hotels with rescue pups more than once.

Today, Isslaam credits the dogs with making him a better pilot and helping him realize his dream of flying for a commercial airline.

Lee, Hanna, and Gina’s excellent air transport adventure!

Isslaam traveled to Harris Ranch, south of Modesto, to pick up his three charges for the three-hour flight to Yreka. He likes to bring another person along, to help with the animals. This time he flew with his friend Isaac who also happened to be picking up a puppy in Modesto.

While the others were fine, the flight didn’t sit well with the white husky’s tummy and she vomited. Poor Gina. Good thing Isaac was there to help!  Isslaam says that the animals typically do very well, but occasionally one gets queasy. Adoption Center Manager Rick Formanek  met the plane at Siskiyou County Airport and drove the dogs to Rescue Ranch Sanctuary.

3 new Rescue Ranch residents are doing great

Staff member Sydney Palmer sent me some lovely shots of our new residents at the Sanctuary, where they’ll be staying before going to the Adoption Center. She says all three are people and dog  social. Lee, the GSD mix, is a “great buddy to hang out with” and “all about belly rubs.” While Lee is “okay” on leash, Gina and Hanna, the black and fawn husky, already have “great” leash skills. Hanna likes to play ball and Gina loves the water.

Now these wonderful dogs have a chance to thrive and live their best lives. All thanks to their rescuers and to volunteer air transport pilot Isslaam Abouremeleh, who swooped in like a guardian angel and flew them to safety.