It is an FAA requirement that all licensed pilots get a physical examination from an approved doctor at designated intervals depending on the category of license held in an effort to ensure that the skies are not only friendly but safe as well. No one wants to be sitting in Coach ordering a drink while reminiscing of the days when they gave you a bag of peanuts and a coke for free and suddenly hear the Captain’s voice call out in distress over the loud speaker, “I seem to be experiencing severe chest pains. Is there a doctor back there“? To which you immediately respond to the flight attendant, “On second thought, make mine a double”!
I recently had to submit to a flight physical and the doctor assured me I indeed had the Right Stuff – even if it was stored neatly in my mother’s attic. So it is only natural that our little whooper chicks must also get their flight physicals, or Health Checks as we call them, prior to their trip to Wisconsin, and last Monday was the day. The Health Check is always stressful for both the chick as well as the staff because it necessitates the chick having to be picked up and held while the exam is performed. Birds, especially our young chicks, just don’t like to be handled or restrained and sometimes respond accordingly. This can and has resulted in a few cases of injury and even death, which is terribly tragic, yet unavoidable. But then, how many of us can honestly say that we enjoy all that probing and tweaking that goes on up in that Mother Ship when WE are the ones abducted by aliens.
At first glance, you might not think a creature that has been around for tens of millions of years; long before mankind was a gleam in Adam’s eye would be so fragile and easily injured until you consider that our young chicks have incredibly delicate wings and legs which are not yet completely formed and therefore vulnerable. Add to this the fact that conventional wisdom has it all of our whoopers today may have descended from only three adult females left in the remnant population back in 1941, so we don’t necessarily have genetics working in our favor.
Of course, some would say that “Three Eve’s are better than one” in reference to the biblical Eve who, it is said, begot all of us and we didn’t turn out so bad, despite the fact that the Forbidden Fruit may have been a banana instead of an apple. Anyway, our chicks came through their Health Checks in great shape thanks to the expertise of the Patuxent staff, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
All that remains is a few more days of training, socializing, and fitting the chicks with their shiny new leg bands to match their “I LOVE WISCONSIN” t- shirts. Then it’s “So long Patuxent” and “Hello White River Marsh” as the next chapter of the project begins. The life of a whooper chick may be challenging but it’s never dull. Now, if we can just talk Windway into that upgrade – the one that includes a free bag of peanuts and a coke.