Lifestyle Pets Rescue Pilot Flies 51 At-Risk Cats to New England Shelters for Fresh Start and Forever Homes Michael Schneider's recent rescue flight with Pilots to the Rescue is the nonprofit's largest transport since Schneider founded the organization in 2015 By Kelli Bender Kelli Bender Kelli Bender is the Pets Editor for PEOPLE Digital and PEOPLE magazine. She has been with the PEOPLE brand for more than eight years, working as a writer/producer across PEOPLE's Lifestyle, Features, and Entertainment verticals before taking on her current role. Kelli is also an editor on PEOPLE's Stories to Make You Smile and serves as an editorial lead on PEOPLE's World's Cutest Rescue Dog Contest and Pet Product Awards. Before joining PEOPLE, Kelli helped AOL and Whalerock launch a pet lifestyle site called PawNation. She is a pet parent to a cat named Wallace, and her professional and personal devotion to animals has taken her to three dog weddings ... so far. People Editorial Guidelines Published on May 26, 2021 03:33 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Kelli Bender Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be an adorable ride. On May 20, Michael Schneider readied the Pilots to the Rescue plane for its biggest trip yet. Founded by Schneider in 2015, Pilots to the Rescue is a nonprofit dedicated to helping at-risk animals by flying them to safety. A self-described "serial entrepreneur," Schneider started the organization to combine his passion for aviation and animal rescue and pilots many of the nonprofit's rescue flights himself. A majority of Pilots to the Rescue's missions are transport flights operated by volunteer pilots. On these trips, shelter animals set to be euthanized due to overcrowding are instead given a Pilots to the Rescue flight ticket. From there, they are safely flown to shelters with the room and resources to care for the adoptable pets until the animals can find forever homes. Kelli Bender Schneider's May 20 transport flight was Pilots to the Rescue largest rescue with 51 cat passengers. For the trip, Schneider flew from New Jersey to North Carolina to pick up the dozens of felines from the Carolina Cat Rescue. Kelli Bender Volunteers from the rescue, which works to find homes for North and South Carolina's unwanted kittens and cats, met Schneider on the tarmac to tenderly hand off the 51 animals, many of which they had a hand in saving. Most of the felines endured rough starts before Carolina Cat Rescue found them, and Pilots to the Rescue stepped in, like Black Nose — a pregnant black-and-white cat that had to get a leg amputated after she was found injured in a field. Kelli Bender Luckily, once Schneider carefully stowed all 51 cats on the plane in North Carolina and took off for Connecticut, the cats' difficult pasts were behind them, and now only fresh starts await. Kelli Bender After landing in Connecticut, the felines met up with volunteers from several New England shelters with space to comfortably house the 51 cats. All of the pets will stay at their new shelters until they find the ideal forever home. Cat Missing for 10 Days Saved from the Bottom of a Well After Dog Hears Her Cries Kelli Bender By flying 51 cats hundreds of miles to safety in just a few hours, Schneider and Pilots to the Rescue also saved the Carolina Cat Rescue and the New England shelters. This flight represents the hours of time and the hundreds of dollars in resources that the shelters would need to move the felines themselves. The shelters can now use this time and money to help other animals. Kelli Bender For Schneider, that's what Pilots to the Rescue is all about, providing animals with more opportunities to find forever homes and offering the people who save pets the resources to make these opportunities possible. To learn more about Pilots to the Rescue, and contribute to their efforts, visit the nonprofit's website and Facebook page.