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Pilot Turns Flying Hobby Into Full Time Rescue Effort

Photo credit: Bonny Schumaker

click image to enlarge

By Diane Herbst

Last year, the Cat House on the Kings, a California cat sanctuary with almost 700 cats and a handful of dogs roaming freely on acres of land, had a special request of pilot Bonny Schumaker. Could she fly 36 of their cats and dogs to another rescue in Bellingham, Washington? Schumaker, who can never say no, loaded the animals into her Cessna 172 and delivered her precious cargo. Says Schumaker: "I take rescues every chance I get."


Schumaker created the non-profit On Wings of Care in 2010, but she's been rescuing animals all of her life. "When I was growing up I'd have my mother take me to the humane societies, and I'd usually come home with one or two animals and find them a home," Schumaker says.


While she dreamed of becoming a wildlife veterinarian, Schumaker ended up earning a PhD in physics and working for a NASA  subcontractor. Yet every spare moment away from work she'd rescue wildlife near her cabin in the mountains north of Los Angeles, including squirrels, bobcats and cougars. "I found a way to do what I always wanted to do," she says, "but as a hobby."


Photo credit: Bonny Schumaker

click image to enlarge

About 16 years ago, Schumaker learned to fly an airplane and instantly began transporting animals of all types – from places who couldn't care for them to those who could. Her cargo has included pelicans, cats, dogs, and goats.


The cost of flying is not cheap, about $200 an hour. With the help of donations, and Schumaker's own money, she's scraped by to ensure she helps every animal she can. This includes flying over the ocean to help research scientists locate whales and turtles entangled in fishing gear, an adventure she performed for ten days in early June.


Schumaker splits her time between living in her California cabin and in New Orleans, with her boyfriend and their four rescue dogs. She retired from her NASA job last year in order to devote all of her time to rescue work, and earns money to pursue this passion by charter flying for people. With her savings dwindled down to almost nothing, says Schumaker, "I'm flying on a wing and a prayer these days." To learn more about On Wings of Care,visit www.onwingsofcare.org


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