True-Lock manager and founder Leslie Weinstein is urging East Coast pilots to volunteer to fly sea turtle rescue missions during the remainder of the annual stranding season, which lasts through the end of December. Stranded turtles, unable to withstand sudden temperature drops, need to be moved quickly to warmer waters to survive.
Earlier this month, one of the largest sea turtles ever, a loggerhead weighing 280 pounds and 49 inches wide, was flown along with two smaller turtles from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Beaufort, North Carolina.
Weinstein, who helps arrange sea turtle rescue flights, was asked to help find volunteers to move the large turtle after it was rescued. He contacted Michael Grossman, president and director of operations of Castle Aviation, North Canton, Ohio, an operator of 14 airplanes, including seven Grand Caravan Super Cargomasters. One of Castle’s Caravans happened to be located near Atlantic City, so Grossman volunteered the airplane while Castle assistant chief pilot John Greenfield offered to pilot the turtle trip. “We do a lot with the Veterans Airlift Command,” Grossman said, “and that’s how [Weinstein] heard about us.”
According to Weinstein, the normal crate used to haul the turtle was too large even for the Caravan, so it had to be taken apart then reassembled once the turtle was on board. The turtles must also be maintained at 70 to 75 degrees F, and the cargo-outfitted Caravan had no heat in the back. Grossman told AIN that they rigged extra ducts from the front of the airplane to keep the turtles at an optimum 72 degrees. The flight took about two hours, far less than the 12 to 14 that driving would have taken, which might not have been survivable for the stressed turtles. “We’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “Our business is doing well, and it’s nice to give back and do something like that.”
“The NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] is predicting a lot of strandings this season,” Weinstein said. “I really need aircraft owners to volunteer their aircraft and time on this very important mission as these sea turtles are on the endangered species list, and every sea turtle counts. My hat is off to Michael. There are not enough Michael Grossmans in the world.”