About Us

A successful Southwings flight returns to the airport.

Founded in 1996, SouthWings is a conservation and public benefit aviation non-profit that provides skilled pilots and aerial education to enhance conservation efforts across the Southeast. Our team and our service are unique, combining the knowledge of conservation issues with experienced piloting skills. We enable those we fly to better understand, from an otherwise inaccessible vantage point, the globally significant ecosystems of the Southeast. Through the aerial perspective, SouthWings' service provides experiential understanding of environmental challenges and opportunities for conservation. This perspective fosters understanding of scale/magnitude, and the relationships of cumulative and compounding environmental effects. We provide a means to educate public and elected officials, media, community leaders, researchers and conservation organizations.

The aerial perspective can dramatically show sedimentation and run-off. Here from a flight with Save our Saugahatchee (SOS) in Alabama, the distinctions between the runoff and the usual water color is evident. Photo courtesy of SOS.

At the request of organizations whose work would benefit from the aerial perspective, SouthWings conducts flights around water quality and wetlands; land conservation; mining; forest protection and restoration on private and public lands; wildlife habitat; land use, such as development and sprawl; as well as other conservation- related issues when they arise. We perform several types of flight missions including those that are educational for media, decision-makers and change agents such as elected officials and celebrity spokespersons; utilitarian flights for surveys, conservation easement monitoring and data gathering; flights that reveal unexpected and previously unknown information, (“I had no idea”) and flights that locate and document non-compliance with regulations and laws. A flight may cover one or more flight types or issue areas.

In 2008 SouthWings established three initiative areas of focus: mountaintop removal coal mining, cypress ecosystem conservation and preservation of the Nature Coast in Florida. These initiative areas represent SouthWings’ on-going efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our flights by identifying and applying resources to areas where we believe the aerial perspective can have the most significant impact and where current conservation opportunities are maximized.

Much planning goes into SouthWings’ flights before take off. Here the Altamaha Riverkeeper, James Holland and pilot Hume Davenport discuss the flight route

Headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, SouthWings works in eleven Southeastern states, from West Virginia to Louisiana. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the highly-skilled volunteer pilots who donate their time and resources to fly SouthWings’ missions.

Before departure, passengers are briefed about safety and the aircraft

While it costs money to conduct flights and run an organization, SouthWings offers its flights at no charge to its flight partners and passengers. This is possible because of the tremendous in-kind contributions of our pilots and because of the donations of private foundations, individuals and organizations. Please consider supporting our on-going conservation work through making a financial donation, volunteering, or sharing information about SouthWings with organizations and individuals whose conservation work would benefit from the aerial perspective.

Sometimes SouthWings flies multi-flight, multi-pilot missions. Shown left to right are pilots Tom Komer, Bob Kuehlthau, staff Caroline Douglas, and pilots Thomas Crumbley and Jay Mills

In July 2010, SouthWings had a great volunteer intern, Emmett McGregor, a film student from American University. Emmett crafted a mini-documentary of photos and video from SouthWings' flights over the last several years. We thank Emmett for his video work and sharing his talent with us. Please enjoy his video above.