AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ever since Bill Kinsinger, a volunteer pilot with the nonprofit Pilots N Paws, went off course Wednesday while flying on a volunteer mission in his single-engine plane, his absence has filled those who are connected to him with worry and sadness.
Kinsinger was flying from Oklahoma City to Georgetown to pick up a husky, Masaru, who had been recently saved from being euthanized. He had been in communication with air traffic control at the start of his flight but never landed in Georgetown, instead continuing over Houston and the Gulf of Mexico. Navy planes went to investigate and said the pilot appeared to be unconscious due to hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the blood.
The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Sunday that the search for Kinsinger and his plane are still active, but they haven’t seen any evidence of the plane or pilot yet.
The day after Kinsinger disappeared, several of his fellow pilots with Pilots N Paws decided they would take Masaru to Oklahoma City as Kinsinger had planned. Masaru is an older husky who had been surrendered by his owners and had a host of health problems including heartworm, ticks and an inability to use his back legs. After Pilots N Paws saved Masaru from euthanasia, Kinsinger planned to take Masaru to a veterinary technician in Oklahoma City.
The flight his fellow volunteers made for Masaru was more than just a rescue mission, it was also a flight honoring Kinsinger.
“We needed to fill Bill’s final leg,” explained Justin Blackburn, one of the pilots on the flight. Blackburn had worked with Kinsinger on several Pilots N Paws missions before. He said they both shared a deep love of animals.
Blackburn said on their trip to return Masaru, they flew the same exact flight path that Kinsinger would have. They also interacted with many of the same air traffic control towers Kinsinger did on the first part of his flight Wednesday. He noted that every time the plane he was in crossed into new airspace, the air traffic control towers shared their condolences and sent kind thoughts for Kinsinger and his loved ones.
As of Sunday, Masaru arrived in Las Vegas at a husky rescue where he will be rehabilitated and hopefully be adopted soon.
“I think it’s all important to everyone involved in this to make sure that [Masaru] has the best final years of his life that he possibly could have because that was what Bill was going to do,” Blackburn said. “I think the rest of us think it’s important that at least that part of the story has a happy ending.”
Blackburn reiterated that in spite of incidents like these, air travel is extremely safe, and he hopes that people continue to give their time volunteering for other aviation-related charities.
Pilots N Paws will be sending another leg of a rescue mission out of the Georgetown airport on Thursday. The dogs, rescued from near the border, have all been named for Bill and for the aviation phonetic alphabet. One of the dogs is named Mr. Bill.