Fly with purpose

SouthWings pilots are on the front lines of positive change as they guide, educate, and entertain conservation leaders and storytellers.
Pilot Inquiry Form

Be a SouthWings Volunteer Pilot

Fly with purpose where you want, when you want.

SouthWings’ work wouldn’t be possible without its corps of highly-skilled volunteer pilots who donate their time and resources to fly missions. Every SouthWings flight has intent and purpose, and our pilots fulfill an invaluable role as guides, educators, and entertainers to the distinguished leaders and storytellers we host.
Join pilot Hap Endler on a conservation flight as he describes why he volunteers to help protect and restore the Southeast with SouthWings.


SouthWings' pilots have flown thousands of individuals and organizations, from local groups to national powerhouses, to educate community leaders, policy-makers, and the media, and to collect scientific data on forests, watersheds, historic landmarks, and the globally significant ecosystems of the Southeast.

SouthWings is not a commercial flight service, and our passengers don’t “hire” us for a flight. Instead, Southwings connects and facilitates scheduling and logistics between passengers and our corps of volunteer pilots.

We work with individuals with the greatest potential to influence positive environmental changes through diverse methods including:

  • Engaging Stakeholders
  • Holding Polluters Accountable
  • Conserving Critical Habitat
  • Addressing Climate Change
  • Collecting Data
  • Enhancing Organizational Success

types of flights

We employ three proven flight models:
  • Monitoring and Survey Flights
    We can provide aerial coverage to areas that are often remote or inaccessible by ground. These flights assist in gathering data that may be used for scientific or regulatory purposes.
  • 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.
  • Media Flights
    For photographers, videographers, writers, and journalists, these flights capture the story of the environment, bringing evidence to a wider audience.

What our Pilots Say

"I would tell new recruits the quiet feeling of accomplishment when I saw a story on coal ash ponds, wood pellet exporting, the red wolf reintroduction in NC, and let’s not forget the CAFO stories, all of these make me proud to have flown for something my wife and I believe in. I could not fly for the $100 hamburger without feeling I should have used that time and money to scout out the Cape Fear River or circle some CAFO sites and put some real purpose behind my flying."

Doug Oakley
Volunteer Pilot

Where We Operate

SouthWings arranges flights in fifteen states, including much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, central and northern Florida, Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico, coastal Texas and nearly everywhere between.
  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
For flight needs outside of this region, contact our sister organization, LightHawk.

Pilot Requirements

  • Love of flying and interest in conservation
  • Minimum 750 hours of Pilot In Command time
  • Own or access to an aircraft
  • Approved Volunteer Pilot Application, 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 (or have regular access to) and maintain a normal category fixed-wing or rotor aircraft.

SouthWings appreciates the interest and enthusiasm  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.

Cost & Liability

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

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 delivered prior to the flight.

Review Process, Scheduling, & Time Commitment

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.

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/s of interest, 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.

We partner with local, regional, and national organizations such as ...

Reports, media, and data from SouthWings flights have informed and enriched stories published by ...

Flying for Other Causes

Aviation is a tool with many applications, but SouthWings volunteers focus exclusively on environmental missions. Some of our pilots work with other organizations as well to provide medical assistance, pet rescue, and other volunteer services, and for those missions we recommend reaching out to Angel Flight, Pilots N Paws , or the Veterans Air Lift Command.
SouthWings does not provide rapid disaster response services, and we prioritize our pilots’ safety when considering post-disaster flight requests.

Ready to take the next step?

Think you have what it takes to join Southwings as a volunteer pilot? Complete our this Volunteer Pilot Inquiry Form today to get the ball rolling.

Volunteer Pilot Inquiry Form