Military Pilot Spends His Retirement Flying Rescue Dogs To Safety

David Tan dedicated his life to keeping the citizens of the world safe. After 40 years of flying planes in the military, Tan now has a different kind of co-pilot in the cockpit. The Middleton, Wisconsin, resident has his own Aermacchi SF-260. This small, two-person Italian plane is used by countries with small air forces and for acrobatic stunts.

These days, the feats he’s pulling off aren’t full of barrel rolls and freefalls like something out of Top Gun. Instead, Tan has helped more than 360 dogs, 23 cats, one potbelly pig, and a bat (yes, a bat!) fly to safety.


Many Rescuers Share The Same Mission

In 2012, Tan heard about a 501(c)(3) charity called Pilots N Paws. This unique organization is a virtual rendezvous point for shelters, pilots, plane owners, and all-around animal lovers to come together.

According to their website, “The intent of Pilots N Paws is to provide an environment in which volunteers can come together and arrange or schedule rescue flights, overnight foster care or shelter, and all other related activities.”


Thousands Of Pilots Join The Rescue Efforts

Would you believe there are over 6,000 volunteer pilots working alongside Tan? That’s right! These pilots donate their time, their plane, and the fuel needed to help these pups in need!

Rescues typically arrange for multiple pilots to relay these tail-waggin’ co-pilots in stretches of 250 miles. One lucky dog could fly with several pilots before reaching their final destination.


Even though he’s a Wisconsin resident, most of Tan’s rescue missions occur in the southern states. One of his most heartbreaking stories involved a dog named April. Her owners abandoned her after she went to the bathroom in the house. They brought her to the vet to be euthanized but, luckily, she ended up in the arms of an angel when she got paired with Tan, who flew her to an incredible second chance at love.


“There are just some terrible stories out there [about] how cruel people can be to animals, especially down south; the abandonments are horrible,” Tan told Madison Magazine. “A family would just leave them, discard them like a piece of old furniture or something. So that kind of gets me. I feel good when at least … I can contribute toward where they go.”

Happy Endings At The End Of Every Runway

In addition to his work with Pilots N Paws, Tan also works one-on-one with his own network of rescuers he has gotten to know over the years. Occasionally, Tan gets to be the lucky person to introduce a dog to their new family – something he cherishes deeply.

“You sort of say, ‘Hope you have a great rest of your life,’ you know?” he says. “‘Hope these people love you forever.’”


If a family tries to pay Tan for his time and efforts, he never keeps the money. Tan always gives it right back to the rescues so they can continue to save more four-legged lives.

“They’re always short, especially when it comes to medical care for the animals,” Tan said. “It just costs so much nowadays.”

Tan says that as a pilot, you have to fly; otherwise, you’ll lose your skills. Rather than flying to a faraway land for an adventurous day, Tan would rather keep up on his skills by giving back to the innocent animals who deserve nothing but love.

Featured Photo: Twitter