No Aircraft Training for the Next Four Weekends

It takes an unusual person to fly with Whooping cranes.

That is not to say they are odd in a take a step back kind of way or that they possess any noteworthy attributes. It’s just that not everyone is willing to spend so much time away from home or work seven days a week or dress up in a ridiculous costume and carry a puppet. They’re not heroes or misfits but they are dedicated or maybe just stubborn – to the point of obsession.

At any rate there are three of us willing and able to do it. And trust me when I say it is not easy to find another mulish trike pilot with a Private flying licence, more than 250 hours of experience and has a lifelong desire to be a bird.

As an example, Brooke works seven days a week for most of the year. It‘s not like he is running at full speed from sunrise until dark but it does require early mornings to train the birds or check on them at the wintering site in Florida. It is an obligation that requires persistence so during the summer training season he gets well deserved weekends off.

Both Richard and I fill in the gaps and take our turns training the birds. We generally spend three weeks there and two weeks at home. In fact I just returned from my stint to spend time in our head office dealing with WCEP matters, staff scheduling, research papers and all the other stuff I am not good at.

Richard spends his non-flying time working on his other career as a metal sculptor. Since leaving school he has expanded his talent with an air hammer and a cutting torch. He can now shape steel to match exactly the images he forms in his creative mind. To the benefit of art patrons and the misfortune of Whooping cranes, Richard has a large commission this year with a late fall deadline. He was able to train the birds in the early spring but can’t make his normal August session.

So for the next few weeks we will not be training the birds on weekends. Jeff, Doug and Tom will be there to ensure they are safe and healthy but the aircraft will not show up every day. That is not really a change in our procedures. In fact, the original protocol states that each training secession will be evaluated for success and additional training may be curtailed to avoid excessive human contact with the birds.

In recent years we have needed every opportunity the weather allowed to encourage reluctant birds to leave the pen or stick with the aircraft. But these birds have been so good that the occasional break will not be an issue. Apart from disappointing our audience, the birds will not suffer from a once a week break.

Beginning in September we will be back to full time. We will introduce the second aircraft and hopefully, prepare for an early departure. It’s fun to be an optimist isn’t it?

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  1. Dave Hanson August 24, 2015 6:14 pm

    you know what is best so get rested up…see you at cranefest…

  2. Dorothy N August 15, 2015 4:19 pm

    You all deserve more than a break — kudos, admiration, fans (maybe not screaming teens), practically sainthood! Enjoy your times away, all of you! Thank you for your unfailing efforts to bring back these beautiful and fascinating winged giants!

  3. Cathy August 15, 2015 4:08 am

    I actually feel better with this decision. As much as I thoroughly enjoy the training, it is in fact not for our entertainment but serves a higher purpose. Having the privilege of watching is just a bonus for us. Your safety, the safety and well-being of the entire OM crew and the birds is what is important and they are fine and we want you all to be also. You all ROCK by the way!

  4. eugenia (aka CraneWatcher) August 14, 2015 8:30 pm

    I disagree on one point, Joe: You, Brooke, and Richard are most definitely HEROES!!!

  5. Jillbru August 14, 2015 8:29 pm

    We’ve learned a certain amount of patience, Joe, and I gotta say our chatters and moderators are able to entertain themselves very well! We’ll live, and we hope you tumes will get a bit of rest and some needed family interaction.

  6. P. Main August 14, 2015 7:09 pm

    You know OM has been doing this long enough to know when a break is good and when it’s not. The colts are doing great, impressive class this season. Thank you Joe, Brooke, Richard, and everyone of you that puts on that tume suit we all love, and everyone else at OM that doesn’t wear the tume also!

  7. ffmn August 14, 2015 7:06 pm

    You do what you have to do !! We will survive. But, what does one do between 5:45 a.m. and the next 60 minutes? Oh….stay in bed……:0 enjoy your weekends for a bit.