For the 8 million people who fly in an airplane a day, having a human pilot is pretty much a guarantee. A British TV show, however, is changing the way we think about that and has proven that dogs can be trained to fly airplanes.
U.K. television network Sky 1 sent a team of animal trainers and an animal psychologist to tour kennels throughout the U.K. and pick the smartest dogs they could find.
Twelve rescue dogs, mostly strays, made the cut and went through a series of rigorous tests to assess their communication skills, empathy, and tolerance for speed and heights.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that “Dogs Might Fly” show host Jamie Theakston said the purpose of this activity was to prove rescue dogs are just as trainable and friendly as any other dog.
He states, “People give up on them too easily and this series will show up why we shouldn’t.”
Three dogs, all under three years old, passed the test. Shadow, a Staffordshire bull terrier/collie mix, Reggie a German Shepherd/Labrador mix, and Alfie, a collie/lurche, went on to complete flight training.
They were seated with their front paws on the control yoke in front of a PC-grade flight simulator and were trained using lights and cues on when to turn left or right or to level out.
While aboard the plane, the dogs received treats from a trainer for correct behavior. A human pilot handled altitude.
After 10 weeks of flight school, the dogs were brought out to a grass airfield near London and were tested in a real Cessna 182.
With a human copilot sitting next to them for safety, all three dogs were able to show their skills off. Each completed a Figure-8 maneuver successfully, with their trainer in the back controlling the cue lights.
When the dogs landed and the show ended, all 12 dogs were rescued and went to their forever homes, including some with the show’s staff.