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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

Flying for Life: Rescue Pilot Scott Messinger’s Mission Soars

by Nancy Bragin

Clark Kent doesn’t look like a superhero until he takes off and flies as Superman. It’s the same with Scott Messinger, whose day job is CEO of Eyeland Optical, a chain of 14 family-owned optical centers in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. To save travel time, Messinger learned to fly and began traveling to work in a small, single-engine airplane.

His transformation began in the fall of 2010. “I read an article written by a former animal control manager at a county animal shelter in the south, who said the job was ‘hurting his heart and killing his soul,’” says Messinger. Soon after, as a favor for a friend, he flew from Philadelphia to a shelter in Louisiana to rescue some dogs that were about to be euthanized.

Messinger recalls, “As I travelled through the southern states I saw pet owners facing heartbreaking decisions. They were losing their jobs and homes due to the economy and simply could not afford to feed their pets. I learned that bringing a pet to a southern animal shelter is often a death sentence. These shelters are often overflowing with dogs and cats that once knew the joys of a family and a warm bed, but are almost surely destined to be put down. It’s the kind of thing that once your eyes are opened and you really see what’s going on, you sort of can’t un-see it; you can never get it out of your head.”

The deal was sealed and the transformation to rescue hero quietly began. Messinger removed all five passenger seats and converted the airplane into a flying kennel, complete with floor-to-ceiling cages. In no time he was flying regular rescue runs to and from Louisiana, became a volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws—an award-winning animal non-profit with over 4,300 volunteer pilots—and founded Eyeland Rescue, where he donates his time and his plane. He covers the costs associated with transporting rescued dogs to a new home solely through Eyeland Optical Centers, where a portion of every purchase goes to fund shelter rescue.

On July 19 of last year, Messinger marked his “6,000 Rescues” milestone by flying seven abandoned dogs from flood-ravaged Charleston West Virginia, facilitated by B.A.R.C., Boone Animal Rescue Coalition of Danville, West Virginia, to Northeast Philadelphia Airport. There they were met by staff from Providence Animal Center, in Media, Pennsylvania, that transported the precious cargo to safety and groomed the dogs for forever homes.

This happy saga of shelter animals and their rescue is far from over. Messinger has his eyes set on 10,000 rescues and beyond. He credits his wonderful Eyeland patients, whom he calls “rescue partners”, saying their loyalty is what keeps the Eyeland Rescue plane in the air.

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Nancy Bragin is a marketing consultant, personal and corporate coach, guest speaker, freelance writer and frequent blogger who lives in Southampton. Connect at [email protected].

April 2017