Sweet plane. It even has a parachute!
Picture this gem of a scene. It’s Saturday morning, July 17th, 2010. Angleton, Texas. Brazoria County Airport.
I am in the smallest airplane on earth. I am about to take OFF in the smallest airplane on earth.
Apparently, I will fly 600 – 1000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.
I am quite certain I will not be coming back.
What will become of poor Mr. Jiggs? (Mr. Jiggs is my 14 year old pug) Did I leave my flat iron on? Why didn’t I use the restroom before I got in the plane?
I am speaking to myself in first person. I don’t think I was doing this aloud, but maybe I was. Who knows at this point?
Despite my terror and impending feeling of doom, I do feel kind of cool because I have on those pilot headphone thingies and am kind of having a Top Gun moment. I want to say something like ” Alpha Bravo Charlie 2 5 6 8 3, what’s your AGL, OVER”. I don’t. In hindsight, I should have though.
I am wondering the following:
Why is the pilot explaining to me the whole…”If I have a heart attack this is the lever you need to pull” type thing and why are we having the “this is the little GPS tracking device, and you will need to press this button twice before we ditch so they can find us” type discussion? Why am I wearing a life vest flotation device?
Why did I lie about my weight and say I was five pounds lighter that I am? Really? I would rather die and take two innocent people down with me than tell someone my actual weight?
Me, the co-pilot!
I nervously attempted to repeat what he had just said to me because I realized that while he was giving me instructions I was thinking about the Top Gun volleyball scence and was so shocked that he was talking to me about this type of situation that I wasn’t really paying attention. Oh god. I am a goner for sure.
You may be trying to figure out why I am putting myself through this type of panic causing situation? Well, to be honest, this was an honor and a once in a lifetime type experience!
Jeanine, student with TAMU Galveston and Kemps ridley patrol coordinator on the upper Texas coast!
My good friend Carole Allen, a conservation hero, sea turtle advocate and Gulf Coast Director with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, asked myself, along with a few other lucky individuals, if we would be interested in taking a LightHawk flight in the few days following the opening of shrimp season off of the Texas coast. Shrimp boats must be equipped with Turtle Excluder Devices (aka TEDs) when trawling for shrimp so any captured endangered sea turtles can escape and not drown. Find out more about sea turtles and Houston Zoo conservation efforts here.
We were to look for the following things during our flight:
- Law enforcement presence
- Evidence of illegal shrimp boats
- Counting number of shrimp boats
- To look for evidence of oil off of the Texas coast
The unique and amazing non-profit organization that was able to make this aerial survey a reality was a nonprofit group called LightHawk. LightHawk’s mission is to champion environmental protection through the unique perspective of flight. Their goal is to mobilize enough volunteer pilots, aircraft and resources to help tip the balance toward sustainability for every major environmental issue within their targeted areas of focus.
Randy our super talented pilot that got me back on the ground alive. Thanks Randy!
Our pilot, Randy Henry, a retired employee of Kinkos, spends his free time, and donates his beautiful plane, to help not only with conservation projects like ours, but with human aid efforts as well. Really, a genuine and fantastic person all around. Bravo to you Randy Henry! It just shows you that no matter what you do for a living or what your hobby is, conservation groups need your expertise and time. Whether you or an accountant, a photographer, a writer or a mechanic, we need you! You can make a difference to an amazing program near you!
Despite all my paranoia and protests, this was the most amazing flight I have ever been on. You really feel like a feather floating in the air. The take off and landing was so smooth, you didn’t even realize it had happened! Much smoother than your commercial airline flight.
We counted over 30 shrimp boats on our flight. No law enforcement. No sign of oil.
Shrimp boat. Yes, we were that close. 600ft.