Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot

Ruth Doherty

Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot
Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot

A pooch pilot, who is the only dog in the UK to have her own crew card, has recruited a puppy to be her co-pilot.

Canine captain Callie, a chocolate Labrador, who has more than 100,000 airmiles under her belt, is now teaching her adopted sister Pippin to fly.

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Callie, who has around 500 flying hours, flies around the country with owner Graham Mountford in his Cessna 210 Centurion and now 14-week-old Pip is earning her wings too.

The pet pilots have special harnesses to strap them into the six-seater plane and have sausages waiting for them when they land.

Five-year-old Callie and mini-me chocolate Labrador Pip both wear fluorescent jackets and tiny 'doggles' when they fly and are greeted with lots of comments and smiles at the airports they visit.

Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot
Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot

Callie, who has touched down at airports across Britain, including Cornwall, Wales and the Scottish Islands, was given an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (Aopa) air crew card after 50 hours of flying and Pip is now hoping to follow in her footsteps.

"Callie and I have been flying together for five years now and when we got Pip we thought it would be fun for her to join us," said Graham, 53, from Leighton Buzzard, Beds.

"Pip has now done three flights and is getting on really well and learning from her big sister. Callie sits next to her when they fly and reassures her with licks.

"I get lots of smiles when I land at an airport and people realise I have two dogs as my co-pilots.

"Pip's ambition is to get a pilot's license like her big sister, so when she has done 50 hours we will apply for one."

Graham has been a private pilot for 16 years and started taking Callie up in the air with him when she was just three months old.

He has now done the same with Pip, gradually introducing her to life in the air, and his daughter Helen, 18, has also assisted with her pilot training.

"I began by taking her to the airfield to get used to all the sounds and smells, then on the second visit I started the engine and the third time we just taxied down the runway to make sure she enjoyed it," he said.

"The next time we went on a short flight to Peterborough and she really enjoyed it so we may try flying to Scotland next."

Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot
Pooch pilot employs puppy co-pilot

Graham hopes the puppy pilots will soon be accompanying him on flights most weekends.

"We live about as far away from the coast as you can get so flying means we can travel to the beach, which the dogs love," he said.

"They really like meeting people and exploring new places and smells and flying means they get lots of attention."

Graham is also hoping to use the pooches to help nervous passengers to get over their fear of flying.

He added: "I have noticed that people who have a fear of flying feel much happier if they are sitting next to Callie or Pip, it seems to calm them down.

"I'm hoping that in the future I'll be able to take people on flights with the dogs to help them overcome their fear of flying."

Graham has also been contacted by search and rescue charity, SERVE ON, who use rescue dogs to search for missing people.

He said: "They want me to help them train their dogs to fly in planes so they can transport them to wherever they are needed as quickly as possible."