Deke Clark

Hear Deke tell how the plane aids the birds in flight.

Deke Clark was a pilot in the very first ultralight-led migration in 2001. He had also piloted in the experiment to lead sandhill cranes south before they tried it with endangered Whooping cranes. A retired United Airlines pilot after 33 years with military flying before that, Deke had a lifetime of service flying planes. He joked that the pilot's seat on one of his big United jets weighed more than the entire ultralight plane he flew for Operation Migration!

Deke and Joe flew the first migration but Deke was foreced into early retirement from flying cranes because he suffered a stroke. He has been recovering ever since. But he shows up to cheer the team's Florida arrivals. He also attends many of the yearly Crane Fests at Necedah NWR. People love to see Deke, and he loves to see them. His fans like to get their photo taken with Deke, and he can still spot the birds in the distance behind the ultralights better than anyone else at the observation tower.

In honor of Deke's expertise and dedication in getting the Whooping crane reingroduction underway, the team has name the new route they began using in 2001 "Deke's Way." It is a fitting tribute to a great pilot and a great friend to Operation Migration.


Read about one of Deke's exciting days in the 2001 migration: Deke to the Rescue.

Audio clips courtesy Mark Chenoweth of Whoopers Happening.

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).