Taking the Dogs on Vacation in Your Ideal Aircraft

Flying with canine companions can be fun as long as they have a comfortable place to sleep.

Mozzie, our Australian cattle dog mix, enjoys his window seat. [Credit: Alexa Kemeny]

After passing my check ride to become a certificated private pilot, I made a point of practicing solo flight for several months before taking my wife and sons aloft as passengers. Now that nearly a decade has passed since then, I have finally flown with our two dogs.

To be fair, we did not have Mozzie and Mingus back when I got my ticket, but still, for years I have wanted to take them on a trip. It seemed a little risky in the flying club’s Cessna 172, given the possibility of motion sickness. But now that we have “Annie,” our Commander 114B, which is very smooth in flight, we figured it was time. Besides, we could line the interior with protective padding to absorb any potential messes.

Despite the advice of friends who told me to limit the first few flights to short hops in order to give the dogs time to settle in and get used to flying, we packed up Annie and headed to Maine—337 nm away.

We purchased hearing protectors called Mutt Muffs to cover their ears, but the noise did not seem to bother them, and after 20 minutes or so they both took the muffs off and went to sleep. A number of folks told us to expect this. Just as it is for my human family members, the aircraft cabin is a great place for the pooches to nap.

Both spent time looking out the windows, seemingly unfazed by the unfamiliar perspective from 5,500 feet. We started with both huddled in the baggage compartment. Eventually Mingus joined my wife, Alexa, in the back seat, giving himself and Mozzie more space.

I think the passage would have been perfect if not for a band of turbulence as we crossed Connecticut. Annie’s tail started to swing noticeably, for just long enough. I think we were passing over Bridgeport when Mingus lost his breakfast, which sounds terrible but really was no big deal. Alexa, who is a good sport, rolled the mess up in a towel and covered the seat with another—kind of like when this happens in the car, except you cannot pull into the conveniently located rest stop to clean up.

Full disclosure: Our towel method was not perfect, as I still had some cleaning to do later at the FBO. It was a funny scene as I chatted with the friendly young line worker, also a pilot, who is building time toward an aviation career. Having never seen a Commander before, he wanted to hear all about Annie, and I was more than happy to tell him the whole story while thoroughly wiping down the back seat. All is well. Once you have traveled with small children, dogs are no problem—and vice versa.

Alexa, Mingus, Mozzie and Annie on the ramp. [Credit: Jonathan Welsh]

I imagined the folks inside the FBO watching us emerge from Annie and figuring we must have been pressed for space in her four-seat cabin. But there was plenty of room and even some useful load to spare with full fuel. This was one more case in which I felt the benefits of Annie’s wide fuselage outweighed the downside of added drag and slower cruising speed compared with, say, a Bonanza F33A or Cirrus SR22.

The trip home was completely uneventful with both dogs snoozing all the way, probably because it was closer to their afternoon nap time anyway. At one point I looked around to find both dogs and both of my human companions sleeping soundly.

It was just like decades of family car trips, except the transit time was just more than two hours instead of 10. I also had the benefits of an autopilot and ATC radar service, so I could take in the scenery a bit while scanning for traffic. Utter joy.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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