Hyperflite Co-founder Jeff Perry took a few days off of work this week to assist with a very important project that has absolutely nothing to do with disc dogs. Always fond of anything capable of flight (which naturally includes our four-legged friends!), Perry was delighted to help Operation Migration in its mission to help re-establish the endangered wild Whooping Crane population. Each year, Operation Migration raises hatchling Whooping Cranes and teaches them to fly in formation with an ultralight “mother bird” aircraft. This year, 18 birds are making the thousand-plus mile flight from Wisconsin to Florida to learn the migratory route that they will follow for the rest of their lives. Once the birds have been shown their migratory route, they can make the trip independently.
Along the way, near major metropolitan areas, volunteer pilots fly their aircraft above the Operation Migration ultralights and trailing Whooping Cranes in a role referred to as “high cover. ” The high cover aircraft handle communications with air traffic control during critical flight segments. In addition, high cover pilots help alert the ultralight pilots if any birds drop out of formation as well as assist with navigation through crowded and restricted airspace. It was in this high cover role, that Perry flew, on December 5th, as the Whooping Cranes transited the busy Atlanta airspace.
“The mission that the crew of Operation Migration has undertaken is criticial to the survival of this species,” Perry notes. In the 1950′s, the Whooping Crane population was down to less than 15 of the majestic birds and they were, literally, on the verge of extinction. The present Whooping Crane population stands at approximately 320 birds. “The pilots and staff of Operation Migration are the most dedicated and professional bunch of people you will ever meet,” according to Perry. “Because of the efforts of Operation Migration,” Perry adds, “the Whooping Crane will, in our lifetimes, thrive again in the wild.”
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