Volunteer Pilot Information

At the heart of our work is SouthWings’ volunteer pilot corps, an extraordinary group of individuals who give their time, expertise, and resources to help support healthier landscapes and communities in the Southeast.

Our pilots are on the front lines of positive change. Join us, choose your level of engagement, and help make a difference in the places you care about.


Where do SouthWings pilots fly?

SouthWings serves eleven states in the Southeast.  We fly in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, Ocala and north.  Some pilots also fly offshore in the gulf region.

What types of flights do SouthWings pilots fly?

Flights of Persuasion – From leaders in the community to senior decision-makers, these flights give select passengers the opportunity to be inspired to lead positive change for natural resource awareness and protection.

Monitoring and Survey Flights – Working with a vast network of partners, we help in providing aerial coverage to areas that are often remote or inaccessible on the ground. These flights assist in gathering data that may be used for scientific or regulatory purposes.

Media Flights – For photographers, videographers, writers, and journalists, these flights capture the story of the environment, bringing evidence to a wider audience.

How does SouthWings decide who it will fly?

SouthWings receives numerous flight requests, not all of which we are able to fly. To determine which flights will receive priority, each flight is evaluated by a flight review committee.  If the flight request is approved, we then ask the most appropriate pilot(s) about their interest.   

What time commitment may be expected of a volunteer pilot?

We schedule flights according to volunteer pilot availability and capacity. A pilot may fly as often as his/her interest and schedule permit. Depending upon activity in your area, we would generally anticipate an average of one to three missions offered to a pilot every quarter, typically of one to two hours in duration. Most flights are to destinations within 100-200 nautical miles of the volunteer pilot’s home airport.

How does SouthWings’ staff support its volunteer pilots?

Volunteer pilots are the reason SouthWings exists and is able to accomplish its mission. The fundamental focus of the work of SouthWings’ Flight Operations staff is to support our pilots by: carefully screening the flights we offer; facilitating and simplifying flight paperwork requirements; coordinating and managing any multi-flight, multi-pilot missions; educating and supporting flight partners so they know what to expect and come to the flight prepared; making connections as needed to obtain necessary information; answering any questions the pilots may have; responding swiftly and effectively to any needs or problems that may occur; and celebrating the tremendous contribution of the pilots with regular communication about the successes and outcomes from their flights.  SouthWings' staff also arranges an annual fly-in to celebrate and honor our pilots for their contributions.  

Does SouthWings require a waiver of liability for its passengers?

Yes. All SouthWings passengers must sign a liability release before taking a flight. Typically the Flight Coordinator will obtain this paperwork prior to the flight and confirm its receipt to the pilot. On occasion, though, there may be a last minute change in the passengers or the paperwork is not provided ahead of time. In these cases, we will ask the volunteer pilot to get the form signed and mailed prior to the flight.

What are the requirements of a SouthWings pilot?

- Love of flying and interest in conservation
- Minimum 750 hours of Pilot In Command time
- Own or access to an aircraft
- Submission of a Volunteer Pilot Application and Volunteer Pilot Agreement
  and accompanying documentation
- Addition of SouthWings as additional insured on aircraft policy 

Aircraft Requirements

SouthWings does not own or operate any aircraft.  We currently depend on our pilots who own either a a normal category fixed-wing or rotor aircraft. 

SouthWings appreciates the interest and enthusiasm for SouthWings flights that we receive from our friends who are Light Sport, ultra-light, experimental, and homebuilt aircraft owners/pilots. Currently, SouthWings does not arrange flights in these types of aircraft. If you'd like to help out in some other way, such as recruiting volunteers at your home airport or spreading the word about SouthWings, please contact us.

Is there reimbursement for flight expenses?

Like most Public Benefit flight organizations, SouthWings asks the volunteer pilot to bear all mission costs. We realize that this is a tall order and find that our volunteers are willing to invest in their SouthWings flight activities. Certain tax deductions are available. For more information on tax deductible information, please refer to your accountant. 

How do you get started in becoming a SouthWings pilot?

Please contact our Volunteer Pilot Program Manager, Larry Peterson larry@southwings.org

Documents that you will need to submit:
1. Volunteer Pilot Application and Agreement Form
2. Send copies either by email, fax or regular mail:
    - Pilot certificate
    - Medical certificate
    - Copy of your last Flight Review documentation
    - Logbook demonstration of 750 PIC hours
    - Logbook compliance with FAR part 61 flight review (BFR) requirement
    - Copy of insurance binder showing SouthWings as additional insured
    - Bio and photograph of you and/or spouse with aircraft (if you would like
      your bio on our website)

A few articles and video highlighting some of our pilots

- Volunteer Pilot Susan Lapis Economist Video
- Cessna Pilots Association Article on Volunteer Pilot Woody Beck
- AutoPilot profile Article on Volunteer Pilot Bob Kuehlthau
- Flying Physicians Association Article on VP's Dr. Mauritson & Dr. Jeff Justis