March 2, 2021

Throughout 2020, and so far in 2021, there were 1,102 “cold-stunned” sea turtles recorded in the Northeast, and when ocean water temperatures drop, some sea turtles become hypothermic, losing their ability to swim, with many washing up on northeast beaches each year.

Since the mostly Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are critically endangered, moving them to warmer waters makes the difference to their survival, and when it comes time for that trip, often it is a business aircraft and volunteer pilot flying them, in coordination with Turtles Fly Too.

Recently, a Pilatus PC-12 piloted by Chuck Yanke flew 37 of the sea turtles from the Northeast to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where biologists released them in the water off Florida’s Space Coast. Space Florida allowed Yanke to land at its Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) to streamline the transportation and release of the turtles.

“It was one of the most severe cold-stun seasons in New England and we were called upon to provide transport of very sick sea turtles for long-term rehabilitation,” said organization founder and president Leslie Weinstein. “[The] flight of 37 sea turtles landed at NASA’s Space Center due to its proximity to the ocean, allowing release within 30 minutes of touchdown, which reduces stress on these passengers who, if driven down, would have been in vehicles for over 20 hours.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies, such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also call on Turtles Fly Too to provide air transportation when endangered species need transport. Business aircraft pilots donate their aircraft, fuel and labor to provide air transportation to shorten travel time and reduce stress on these endangered species.

Turtles Fly Too is always recruiting volunteer pilots with available aircraft to become one of their elite “Turtle Fliers.” Learn more about Turtles Fly Too.

Chuck Yanke, Turtles Fly Too