LightHawk is a nonprofit organization based in Lander, Wyo. It has a small staff that matches the needs of conservation organizations for flights with its corps of volunteer pilots. Under the FARs, there can be no charge for its flights, so LightHawk is dependent on individual contributions and foundations to pay the salaries of its staff and operate the two airplanes it owns. (All LightHawk flights, even in the airplanes it owns, are by volunteer pilots.) LightHawk program managers coordinate the flights in their geographic areas, with three currently in the United States and one in Central America.
|For nearly three decades, LightHawk has dedicated flights to groups hoping to preserve the fragile natural resources of North and Central America.
A pilot learns of a needed flight via e-mail or a phone call. The program manager has already researched the issue involved and agreed that a flight would help disclose the true condition of the area. Once a pilot volunteers for a flight, the program manager briefs him or her on the geographic area involved and the conservation issue. The pilot then speaks with the conservation organization, and together, they plan the details of the flight, with the pilot making the final call on the airport of departure, the route to be flown and altitudes, based on his or her evaluation of the safest and best viewing opportunities. The pilot will seek to schedule the flight for a time when the air is expected to be smooth, as an uncomfortable passenger doesn