A while back I was walking through the Novato, CA airport when a corporate jet pilot and I shared a glance.

“Hey, LightHawk! I know them,” he said, gesturing to my prized LightHawk jacket. He regaled me with stories from his time flying for LightHawk back in the early 1980s when we employed staff pilots. We chatted about common friends, and he learned how our ranks have grown and our work expanded.

As I opened my copy of our most recent Annual Report and scrolled through our volunteer pilot roster, I was reminded of that encounter. We have 38 pilots who have been with LightHawk for more than 15 years, and 25 who have flown more than 20 years in support of conservation. That is amazing commitment!

Our donors are another group of amazing folks where we are blessed to have stunning loyalty. We have supporters who have given to us since our founding, and a significant percentage who have been with us longer than 20 years.

So, why exactly is it that people hang around LightHawk for so long?

My fellow volunteer pilots give words to what I feel: We are proud to have found a way to make a difference with our flying, and we enjoy connecting with the fascinating, diverse, and incredibly talented collection of people who share that value.

One of our conservation partners said, “You make magical and memorable impressions on our passengers that change how they see their world. It takes the issues out of intellectual detachment and into physical experience. It brings the full power of place to into their consciousness in a way that nothing else can.”

And the donors I talk with love the uniqueness and power of our work. “I can’t fly a plane, but I can sure as heck make sure that your good work happens,” said a friend who recently became a donor.

LightHawk is truly a tribe. Collected here are some of the most over-achieving and understated people I’ve ever met. I’m simply honored to be part of the ecosystem that you create, and each fall I look forward to seeing you again at our annual Fly-In.

The Fly-In is our Plymouth Rock, of sorts. An event, yes, but more a physical representation of the philosophy that keeps people rooted at LightHawk for generations. It’s an ever-moving place where all people with unique but aligned world views convene and work together, for good.

We catch up, make new friends, and hear about some local conservation projects we’re involved with. Of course we also nerd out on aviation topics as they relate to conservation, and there is an airplane petting zoo, but the Fly-In isn’t just for pilots. It is an open invitation to everyone in our universe.

Will you join us? From Oct. 20-22, we’ll be on the shores of Lake Champlain at Basin Harbor, which has a well-maintained grass landing strip. More information is on our website at 

If you can’t come, will you help us grow our awesome community by telling someone about LightHawk? Perhaps you can share your already-read copy of our Annual Report with them.

I guess that’s the answer to my question. The reason that so many people stick around is because they came to us through the invitation of a friend with a longing to make a difference in the world, and a desire to keep that community’s mission and  momentum going forward.

Thanks for sticking with us over the years, believing in us, and investing in our work to make a difference!

Terri Watson
LightHawk CEO

P.S. If you haven’t taken a moment to look through our Annual Report, please do. You’ll find great stories of your sustaining gifts hard at work, making outcomes only possible through the aerial experience.

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