#610, the Leader
Excerpt from Joe Duff's Journal: Nov. 1, 2006

Loving the Lead
As expected #610 took up the lead position. For the first few miles he behaved himself. Once we reached 1000 feet,he got bored and began to play. He would fly over the wing and cause the tip to stall and I would have to pull the steering bar hard on the left to keep the plane level. Then #610 would fly ahead of the wing tip and I could feel the pulse of his wing beats. It felt and sounded like driving on a flat tire. At one point he was all by himself on the right wing. The other15 birds were on the left.

Lucky Bird
I watched him move in front of the wing and slowly drift along the leading edge, passing right above me with only his neck and head visible. Then he gracefully floated down the other wing and off the tip to again take the lead of the long line of birds. This would have been impossible with our old wings and all their dangerous overhead wires. Instead of panicking, I watched with interest. If not for the innovative design by North Wing, and a generous donation from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund to allow us to buy these new wings, #610 would have been dead a few times by now!

Who's the Boss?
After a while, I learned that if I turned hard into him he would move out of the way and I could regain control. The frustrating part is that he encourages the rest of the flock, and when all seems to be going along smoothly, he instigates a mutiny and all the birds charge ahead leaving us in their pulsing wake. It is fine to let them have their lead sometimes, but it sets a dangerous precedent. In their society they become dominant and move above the aircraft in the chain of command. That's all well and good until the flock decides they would rather fly east than south and the pilot must regain the leadership as well as the lead.

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