Few people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, but for Temple Kol Emeth member Ben Singer that dream became a reality after he obtained his pilot’s license and began volunteering with Pilots N Paws to rescue pets.
As an insurance wholesaler for employee benefits for 20 years, Singer never imagined the heights his dreams would take him. But in 2016 on Labor Day weekend, Singer’s brother-in-law, who is a captain for Delta, became the owner of a Cessna 182 airplane and wanted someone to share the expenses.
Because Singer’s brother-in-law knew his dream was to fly, he granted him access to the plane so he could acquire his pilot’s license. Singer began training in 2017, and on January 22 of this year, he received his private pilot’s license.
But before he could take to the skies Singer had to apply for a medical certificate, undergo 10 hours of ground instruction and log 40 hours of flight time divided into instructional and solo time. Of those 40 hours, 20 were spent on emergency procedures, maneuvers and systems in preparation for the final check ride.
On average it takes pilots six to seven months to receive their license, Singer said, including an hour and half oral exam and practical.“It was a childhood dream to fly and while my wife was nervous about the whole thing, she knew this was something I wanted to do my entire life. To be presented with an opportunity like this was hard to say no to,” Singer said.
Singer later became acquainted with Pilots N Paws through a client who volunteers for Angel Flight, a nonprofit which helps fly disadvantaged people to hospitals for treatment. Singer also wanted to volunteer his time, and because he and his wife adopted dogs throughout their marriage, he thought about rescuing pets.
One of his most memorable missions, Singer recalled, was getting stuck in Cordele, Georgia’s airport with his 12-year-old son. After a pilot rescued two golden retriever puppies and a dalmatian from South Korea, where they would have been used for meat, he delivered them to Hickory, North Carolina where Singer was scheduled to pick them up.
Once Singer retrieved the dogs he flew into Cordele, where he met and delivered them to two adoptive families from Florida, who were forced to drive an extra hour after one of the pilots pulled out last minute.
But when it was time to head back, Singer noticed a thunderstorm had developed, and he and his son waited out the storm, watching movies on the airport’s TV and enjoying each other’s company.
He said, “I got to spend six hours with my son and not once did either of us complain about having to be there. There was never any stress and it was just us hanging out. I felt like the trip allowed me to spend more time with my son.”
Another one of Singer’s most memorable moments was flying over the high-rises in downtown Atlanta and Buckhead at midnight. There is an airspace of 30 nautical miles from the center of Hartsfield Jackson Airport which pilots are not supposed to fly over and forces them to fly to Carrollton to reach Southside Atlanta. But when it’s not busy pilots can call air traffic control and fly on top of Hartsfield’s terminals, which takes them right over Atlanta.
“It was gorgeous scenery and a bit of a thrill for me to do that. But that’s how these things go, you do something nice and you usually get it back two to three- folds in different ways,” Singer said.
Part of what attracts Singer to Pilots N Paws he said is being able to combine his two passions for giving back and flying. “It seemed cool to me and allowed me to use my pilot’s license in a different way. I got to see new places I normally wouldn’t go to,” he said.
Singer, along with his wife and three boys, lives in East Cobb. A longtime and active member of Temple Kol Emeth, he is finishing up his first term as president of the board of trustees.
For Singer, being able to fly and volunteer is why he got involved with Pilots N Paws. “Whatever happens I always gain so much experience from volunteering my time and I am not doing it for Karma’s sake. What I saw was an opportunity to volunteer and just give back.”