Soaring above oil and gas wells in a six-person Cessna 210 is a far cry from flying in a crowded commercial plane. LightHawk, a nonprofit airline, uses the view to protect the environment. Based in San Francisco, Calif.; Aspen, Colo; and Seattle, Wash., LightHawk flies nearly 1,300 politicos, conservationists and journalists over degraded landscapes every year. "The perspective of flight is the most honest and the most engaging perspective you can give to an issue," says Bruce Gordon, a veteran pilot and associate executive director of LightHawk. "When you're up in the air, the land speaks for itself." Since 1979, the nonprofit group has swelled from a two-pilot crew to 150 volunteers who fly from the oil fields of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska to clear-cuts in Chile. In the past, the group focused on forestry issues, but in recent years it has flown folks over urban sprawl. Says Gordon, "We're helping activists who are the ground troops in all these issues."
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