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May 15, 2002

The Plane and the Plan


Photo WCEP

This is the second year of a bold migration experiment to reintroduce whooping cranes where they used to be over a century ago, The plan is to lead the chicks with the ultralights on the 1200-mile migration to Florida. The chicks that follow the ultralight south will become part of the ancestral flock for the whooping cranes being reintroduced, or brought back, to the eastern part of North America. As such, they are part of the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project. Many partners work together in this ten-year plan. The group is called the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

That's where the ultralight comes in. The tiny plane (also called a trike) is both their flight teacher and their stand-in mother. These ultralights weigh only about 360 pounds. The trikes can fly at crane speed, which is about 32-35 miles per hour.

This year, 18 chicks were hatched for this special project. That's a lot more chicks than the first year of the project! That, of course, is going to affect the number of ultralights that need to be used and the number of pilots flying. Operation Migration, the organization that figured out how to use ultralights to lead birds on migration, bought another plane to lead the larger flock. Ultralight pilots Richard van Heuvelen and Brooke Pennypacker join pilots Bill and Joe this year.




Uncrating new trike

Pilots Bill, Joe and Richard

Voila! Photos WCEP

Try This! Journaling Question

  • Keep a list of ways this migration and flock are different from last year's--the very first human-helped migration of an endangered species. As you read all the Highlights, look for facts to add to your list.

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

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