Mon, Nov 08, 2004
Chase Pilot: "That's The Last Thing I'd Do"
It's become something of an annual right in hopes of saving an
endangered species. But the serene flight of a flock of whooping
cranes from Wisconsin to Florida was interrupted by moments of
confusion and panic last month when another ultralight pilot got to
within 100 feet of the processing, scattering the flock and
reportedly endangering the pilot leading them.
"It's when the cranes blast ahead of the aircraft like that that
things become dangerous," because the birds could collide with
wires atop the aircraft, Joe Duff told the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel. "The guy was probably nothing more than curious, but
that's the last thing I'd do -- fly behind or beside another
ultralight. The pilot can't see you."
Duff is one of several pilots who lead the cranes to central
Florida every year. The team is so sensitive to disturbing the rare
birds that some of the pilots actually don costumes that make them
look like birds themselves.
The whooping crane, at five feet tall, is the tallest birds in
North America. They were all but extinct when Duff's organization,
Operation Migration, stepped in to lead the birds from their summer
refuge in Wisconsin to their winter homes in Florida.
There is one other flock of migrating whooping cranes. With
about 270 birds, it summers in Canada and winters on the Texas Gulf
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