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June 1, 2001

The Plane and the Plan


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At the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, ten young whooping crane chicks that will be the new reintroduced flock are slowly forming an attachment to the ultralight aircraft that is their surrogate parent.

The cranes learn to walk behind the ultralight soon after hatching. The plan is to lead them with the ultralights on the 1250-mile migration to Florida. But before the cranes can go to Florida, they need to learn how to fly at their summer home and how to find their way to the salt marshes of their winter home. That's where the ultralight comes in. The 360-pound plane is both their flight teacher and their surrogate mother.

Meet Ultralight Pilot Joe Duff

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Before the young cranes learn to fly, they will be transported to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, their new summer home. In the fall they will follow the ultralight aircraft south and if all goes as planned they will return--on their own--next spring. Two ultralights will be used: one lead plane and one chase plane.

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Meet Ultralight Pilot Deke Clark and hear about the pilots' jobs.

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

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