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2012 April 07

As tax deadlines approach for all of us, we've decided to post on our website the financial report summary we sent to many of our dedicated supporters earlier this year.  Now that we're getting around to it, we realize we should have posted this at the start of this year. Like other lessons we're learning, we'll do that for 2012 promptly for you in January of 2013! With thanks to our resident genius and supporter Bo Astrup earlier this year, we've created a very efficient, thorough, and transparent bookkeeping system for all On Wings Of Care finances and activities.  So by end of January 2013, all of you who have made any kind of tax-deductible cash or non-cash donation to On Wings Of Care in 2012 will receive a summary record of same from us, which you can use when you prepare your taxes.  We'll also remind you of just what (or in many cases "who") your donations were used for.  Transparency is our rule.  We are a funnel for these volunteer services as much as we are the servants of those we are here to help -- domestic animals in need, wildlife, wetlands, coastal and marine habitat, wilderness, humans in need, our precious planet.

We'd love to hear your feedback, especially your suggestions. We're experienced and among the best at what we do, but we're still novices at some aspects of managing an organization and keeping it going.  Thanks.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



2012 February 15

On Wings Of Care Financial Report for 2010 & 2011

Dear Friends,

With this letter, we'd like to provide you with a financial view of On Wings Of Care since we gained official IRS status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in April 2010 through the end of December 2011.  This is not a conventional Financial Report, in the sense of listing our assets and liabilities. We have such a thing, but it would bore you to death and mean very little. Our only current financial assets are our airplane and all else that we own personally and use to do what On Wings Of Care (OWOC) does every day of the year, like cars and homes and computers and other equipment.  And we have no liabilities at present, no outstanding financial debts. But we have always kept careful records of our activities (many of which are written up on our website and Facebook pages) and of the associated expenses, donations, and reimbursements.  We are firm believers in transparency. But we also are more concerned with doing the work than with bragging about it or trying to raise funds. We like it that all of you know for sure that if and when we issue a plea for help, we need it for a cause you can back, and we use it efficiently just for that.  Here we'd like to offer what we hope is a readable summary of the financial side of our work in the 21 months of our existence from 2010 April through the end of 2011.

Our Activities in 2010 and 2011

When we formed our official 501(c)(3), our first priority was to continue in full force our ever- increasing activities to help rescue domestic and wild animals of all kinds, and to help transport them to where they needed to go to find wonderful forever homes. We aimed to help fill what we had found to be a crucial gap that was limiting the effectiveness of animal rescue organizations and resulting in the unnecessary euthanasia of many homeless animals -- the gap between overflowing animal shelters here and an abundance of eager adopters there. We also planned to continue helping wildlife, monitoring critical natural habitat, and supporting humanitarian needs.  All of that did happen, but it also happened that April of 2010 was when the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded and began pouring hundreds of millions of gallons (200 million, they now say) of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.  That changed our plans a bit, as we headed eastward from California toward New Orleans in May 2010 to see what we could do to help.

We take no monies for our time or our personal expenses of any sort; we all still have our day jobs, although for some of us those jobs have had to become more mobile, as we've given more time to traveling or to physically helping with rescue, foster, and rehab. The bulk of our expenses come from the flying work we do -- the aircraft fuel and maintenance being the big costs. Most of the monies we receive are not general donations but specific reimbursements for pre-arranged help with specific expenses associated with our work -- such as veterinary care, boarding, or transport for rescue animals, fuel costs for aerial transports or environmental or wildlife  surveys, and so on.  When we do receive general donations, if no preference from the donor i stated, we put it toward the expenses that are most urgent at the time. At times that has been to investigate reported fresh oil with endangered wildlife in the vicinity, at other times it is a medical emergency animal rescue transport. If there is no urgentt ask at hand, general donations go into our modest savings account for expected expenses.

Between April 2010 and December 2011, we dedicated nearly 400 flying hours to the transport of rescued domestic animals to safety and to forever families.  Those flights took us all over the US and into Canada.  We dedicated over 300 hours to flying over the Gulf of Mexico to help scientists, citizens' groups, and media find wildlife and document oil and conditions of the wetlands and waters.  We also spent several tens of hours flying for humpback whales off the coast of Massachusetts, finding trash in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, flying humanitarian supply flights to tornado victims in the South and Midwest, and other miscellaneous environmental and wildlife survey missions.

Aircraft Expenses -- Actual and anticipated

Our primary airplane is still "Bessie",  a Cessna 172 optimized for performance and economy with a larger engine, tuned exhaust, long-range main and tip tanks, four fully opening windows for video work, and other modifications that have made her outstandingly useful and a much better-than-stock performer.  We maintain her fastidiously, to the highest FAA standards for commercial flying even though we're not using her commercially.  We feel this is our best safety insurance, next to safe and experienced piloting. Every part of her airframe and engine is inspected and maintained regularly (some every 25 hours, some every 50-100 hours), and repairs or replacements are never postponed.  She'll need her factory-recommended engine overhaul in another 700 flight hours; at this time we are needing to add about $25 per flight hour above all other expenses in order to be ready for this overhaul.  Over her last 1000 flight hours, other regular and reasonable maintenance and repairs have averaged about $75 per flight hour.

In the next year or two, we have some additional aircraft expenses for some much-needed items. First, avionics: We have postponed some sorely-needed avionics work, getting around it by using portable handheld GPS units and secondhand radio and navigational instrument replacements.  We need a panel-mounted GPS, a new audio panel, and one new communications radio, for a total installed cost of about $9,500. This will make her safer for the instrument-weather flying we do, and we do plenty of that.

Second, exterior: Bessie is seriously in need of new paint.  We've done all we could do to protect her from corrosion in the saltwater ocean environments in which we fly so much, but during 2010, the chemicals in the air over the Gulf of Mexico did extreme damage to the paint on all of her leading edges.  We used to come back from those four- or five-hour flights and wipe thick (1/8-inch at least) oily brown coverings from the leading edges of her wings, elevator, and wheel pants.  We realized the damage that was occurring, but there was no stopping those much-needed flights.  We cleaned and waxed all we could to minimize further damage, but what was done was done.  During those times, we used to have to replace the air filter in the plane almost weekly.  But I'm digressing -- sorry, this is supposed to be a financial report!  New paint will cost us about $10,000.  We're going to continue to try to put that off until the end of 2012 or 2013, as the avionics upgrades and the engine overhaul are paramount.

Between the coming engine overhaul and the near-term needed avionics work, by end of 2012 we expect to need $27,000. If we amortize these monies over the remaining 700 flight hours before the engine overhaul is required, that comes to about $40 per flight hour.

SO:  We plan to ignore the paint job for now, and base future expenses on the average costs for maintenance, repair, insurance and taxes over the past 800 flight hours (about $60,000, or $75/hour), plus the above estimates for avionics and engine overhaul ($40/hour).  That results in an estimate for our aircraft operating costs of $115/flight hours (not including fuel), for the next 700 flight hours (at which time we're due for the engine overhaul). Adding to that our average fuel costs -- which, thanks to the generosity of Flightline First at Lakefront Airport in New Orleans, who has supported all of our Gulf of Mexico work by providing us discounted fuel prices and hangar, has averaged about $63/hour.  (Without Flightline First's help, it would have been closer to $75/hr).  For those curious about numbers, we burn about 10 gallons per hous in Bessie, and our fuel receipts over the past 721 flight hours totaled 7,252 gallons and $45,835.)

Hence our total aircraft operating costs can reliably be predicted to be about $180/hr.

The Facts -- Flights and Flight time

In the 21-month period between April 2010 through December 2011, OWOC flew a total of 721 flight  hours, or on average 35 flight hours per month.  The Table below organizes these into flights for the Gulf of Mexico (289 flight hours), for Rescues, Wildlife, and Humanitarian purposes (311 flight hours, which do not count rescue transports accomplished while commuting), and for commuting (121 flight hours, about half of which also carried rescue animals).


Type of Flight

Number of Flights

Flight Hours

2010 Apr-Dec




2010 Apr-Dec

Rescue, Wildlife, Humanitarian



2010 Apr-Dec













Rescue, Wildlife, Humanitarian
















Rescue, Wildlife, Humanitarian











Here are the same numbers with a few more words:
Of our 721 flight hours between April 2010 and December 2011:

  • 289 hours -- comprising a total of 105 separate flights (58 in 2010, 47 in 2011) -- were over the Gulf of Mexico, predominantly around the Macondo area and areas between there and New Orleans, including Grand Isle.
  • 311 hours -- comprising a total of 61 separate flights (17 in 2010 and 44 in 2011) -- were dedicated to animal rescue, wildlife monitoring, and humanitarian efforts throughout the US.  Specifically, 79 hours were for wildlife rescue and monitoring, primarily in Massachusetts -- humpack whales -- and California -- sea birds and blue whales; 10 hours were for transporting supplies to tornado victims in Alabama; and the remaining 222 hours were for domestic animal rescue transports.
  • 121 hours -- comprising a total of 12 separate flights (5 in 2010 and 7 in 2011) -- were required for commuting among California, the Gulf of Mexico, and Massachusetts; technically about half of these should be included under animal rescue, since we also delivered rescue animals enroute! (We try never to "waste" a flight!)

Income and Payments

Between April 2010 and December 2011:

  • Our total income from donations was $8.452.
  • Our reimbursed payments totaled $96,681.
  • Our expenses totaled $107,103 ($10,422 more than we were reimbursed).

We used donations to help with the unreimbursed expenses, and we drew the remaining $1,970 from our own savings accounts to balance our accounts.  Needless to say, we can't continue to operate in a mode where we need to make ends meet from our own savings.  So we have some improving to do, which is discussed more below.


1) We need to try to reduce our operating costs.

1a) Commuting (with our own airplane) costs us a fair amount.  We have been able to combine about half of the commutes with rescue transports, but that has typically just allowed the transport to be free or very low cost, it has not helped us pay for the flights.  It would be great to have additional planes available for our use (e.g., some on the west coast, some on the Gulf Coast, maybe some on the east coast).  We should advertise cautiously for that, as there might be people whose airplanes would benefit from more regular flying in our typical cruise mode, and such an arrangement could be a win-win for them and for us to help more animals.  I say cautiously because we insist on using well-maintained aircraft, especially for over-water flights.  At a minimum, it would be very helpful to have a reliable airplane on the west coast and one on the Gulf coast that would be available for our work.  We could pay the operating expenses for it, but no way at present can we afford to purchase additional aircraft.

1b)  Airplane repairs and maintenance are costing us as little as they can.  We do all of the maintenance that the FAA and good sense permit us to do by ourselves, and our mechanics are extremely supportive of our work and help us out every way they can.

1c) Other costs -- animal veterinary or health care, ground transportation, boarding, public education costs, travel for volunteers, and so on -- are probably already as low as they can be.  In fact, most of these costs are already donated by our volunteers.

2) We need to fundraise!

Here are some ideas we've been working on.  Please help us with more ideas!

2a) We have approached major aviation fuel providers and charter airplane owners with a new program we're calling "Lend-A-Wing."  These fuel providers will offer fuel discounts at specific airports to specific planes and pilots who help transport rescue animals arranged by On Wings Of Care.  We offer these fuel discounts as well as the tax deduction for the service they provide to charter airplane owners, in return for their carrying one or more rescue animals in carriers on their flights.  We provide them with contracts guaranteeing health-certificated, clean, quiet animals in secure carriers, as well as waivers of responsibility to the aircraft operators.  We also handle all aspects of the drop-off and pick-up of the animals at departure and destination airports  We even offer passengers to accompany the animals, and we arrange and pay for those passengers' return trips.

2b) We need some major fundraising events.  Those of us currently at the helm of On Wings Of Care are so busy doing the work that we don't get out there and ask for money or promote our mission publicly. But the numbers are telling us that if we don't learn to do this, we won't be able to continue to provide the help.  We welcome help or suggestions from any of you!

Thanks for joining us in 2010 and 2011, and by the time you're reading this, for some of 2012 too!  We love to hear your suggestions and feedback.  And as you can see, we also appreciate and make good use of your donations.  Thanks a lot for those.

Come on out and meet us sometime, or give us a hand on a rescue!  If you have room in your hearts and your car or your plane, we can put a precious animal or two in a carrier in your hands, for delivery out of  some dead-end shelter into the arms of a forever loving family and home.  That's one of the most rewarding favors you'll ever do.  We'd love to help you do it.