“Bessie” wasn’t just any ordinary single-engine Cessna. For fifteen years, Bonny Schumaker and her Cessna, "Bessie," logged thousands of miles transporting hundreds of animals to safety. This they did, on behalf of Schumaker’s rescue organization, On Wings of Care.
Their passenger list could be pretty eclectic --from the wild to the domestic, pelicans to poodles. Schumaker flew Bessie coast-to-coast, rescuing animals from high-kill shelters, wildfires, floods.
This August, in between rescue-sorties, Schumaker flew her plane to the Gulf of Mexico on a photo-expedition, tracking post-oil spill waters and critters. And then along came Issac.
It took a lot to ground Bessie, permanently. A knee-deep flood of salt water in an airplane hangar, to be exact, compliments of Hurricane Isaac. You can read about it at the On Wings of Care website here. The Cessna, half-submerged, suffered extensive damage; perhaps, according to the insurance company, irreparable damage.
And now, On Wings of Care has to decide whether salvaging the Cessna is even an option. “We didn’t have her insured for anywhere near what we had put into her for wildlife tracking and long-distance rescue transports. It’s a huge setback.”
While the rescue group determines whether salvage and repair are possible, On Wings of Care has promises to keep -- transporting 25 dogs from a shelter in central California to adoptions ready in Edmonton Canada; 30 kittens in the Fresno area bound for Boise, Idaho; tracking and tagging whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. With Bessie out of commission, OWC plans to take a deep dive into their financial resources and rent two different planes to honor these commitments.
We wrote about last February, how she made her way from JPL scientist to full-time animal rescue. It seemed hard enough then; it seems really hard now. It's going to take about $50K to get the Cessna back up and flying again.
Yes, Schumaker agrees, it's a tough break, “and has been a darned heartbreaking last few days." But, in spite of all that, "We are not ones to take bad news for the last word.”