PilotsTogether Sunset

PilotsTogether News

15th February 2024

As we enter 2024, it is time to both inform you of developments at the charity and to reflect upon the achievements made possible by so many of you since our inception.

In the midst of the earliest (and darkest) days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a small cadre of committed individuals recognised the need to give their colleagues – pilots who had lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the complete shutdown of air travel – reason to hope. In very short order, they gave life to PilotsTogether.

This small group of dedicated individuals began raising donations from other pilots and the public and, in doing so, helped avert financial hardship for so many. I am so proud to have been a part of that team.

Recognising the need for urgent help and support, the group immediately began to provide financial assistance to colleagues to cover rent, mortgage, car payments, food, and all manner of other expenses. With little fanfare and no formal outside help, the PilotsTogether charity was established in record time and was able to make the first grants to those in need in a matter of weeks.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

As I reflect on that time, I realise what an astonishing feat that was by such a small number of people, driven by a need to help others who, due to no fault of their own, found themselves in sudden and sometimes dire situations.

PilotsTogether had an immediate and significant impact for a great many pilots and the feedback from them was overwhelming. Without question, every one of them expressed their profound gratitude to those who donated.

Since August 2020, PilotsTogether has assisted pilots from British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Jet2, FlyBe, Titan, and more. We have provided nearly £300,000 in direct grants to alleviate financial hardship, organised mental health and wellbeing support, and ensured that unemployed pilots were able to remain a part of the aviation community.

Recently, one of our Trustees shared this anecdote, “I bumped into a former 777 FO in the sim block yesterday. He ended up in the PRP. Tough times but he’s back now on the 320! He conveyed how the PilotsTogether charity helped him out and possibly saved his house from repossession.” Again, we should be immensely proud of what we have accomplished.

Whilst support from the charity was needed by so many in the early days of the pandemic, it was clear to the Trustees that pilots are a proud and resilient breed, and most chose to soldier on without requesting help as they felt that there were others who needed our assistance more acutely. Many took roles as lorry drivers, Amazon and Tesco delivery drivers, or whatever they could find to sustain themselves. Thankfully, they managed to persevere through the crisis and now most, if not all, pilots are back where they belong – in the cockpit.

It was always our aim to ‘put ourselves out of business’ as a charity if we could and I am pleased to report that today, we are no longer receiving requests for assistance in any meaningful volume.

Einstein said, “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change,” and we are at an inflection point that requires change. To that end, the Trustees have taken the decision to sunset the charity.

We did not come to this decision lightly. Whilst we know that there will likely be others in need in the future, we feel that our work, as agreed in our charter, is now complete.

To ensure that the remaining funds we have are used for the purpose for which they were donated, we have arranged to distribute our remaining monies equally to two well-established charities – The BALPA Benevolent Fund and the Air Pilots Benevolent Fund (part of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots). Both charities have similar objectives to those of PilotsTogether and each organisation has agreed to use these funds to provide support to pilots in need who meet the criteria established by our charity. Requests for support may be made to either organisation at the links below:

BALPA Benevolent Fund – https://www.balpa.org/benevolent-fund/
Air Pilots Benevolent Fund – https://www.airpilots.org/what-we-do/trusts/the-air-pilots-benevolent-fund/

The Trustees of PilotsTogether are grateful to all who have donated in support of the pilots we serve. We have benefitted from individual donations ranging from £1 to £1,000, raffle ticket purchases, and donations from partner organisations including Big Jet TV, Aerotiques, and others.

There is one group to whom we owe a special debt of gratitude – those pilots who have selflessly supported us and their colleagues through Give as You Earn – Payroll Giving (GAYE) donations. The volume of support from this group is unmatched and without it, we would not have been able to aid so many, so quickly. If you are one of the pilots in this group, thank you.

PilotsTogether has notified payroll giving organisations that we are no longer accepting new donations, however, given the nature of GAYE programmes, if you are a GAYE donor, you must let your HR department know that you wish to halt payments to the charity.

For current BA pilots donating via GAYE you can cancel your donation via this link.

For retired BA pilots donating via GAYE you can cancel your donation via this link.

In my tenure at PilotsTogether, both as a Trustee and as Chair, I have been moved and impressed by the connected nature of the Aviation community. It is a community that includes ground staff, cabin crew, pilots, air traffic controllers and their families. In nearly every interaction, members of this community have asked, “How can I help?” or “What can I do?” They have given generously of their time and their finances. For that we, and the pilots we serve, are eternally grateful.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself,
the other for helping others.” — Audrey Hepburn

I am immeasurably proud to have been able to participate in the work of this amazing charity.

On behalf of the Trustees of PilotsTogether, and all those you have helped, I thank you for your generosity and compassion.

See you onboard.

Steven Z. Ehrlich