Volunteer sea turtle rescue organization TurtlesFlyToo.org, which depends on general aviation aircraft and pilots to help relocate the lumbering mammoths, is expanding westward as the organization celebrates its fifth year.
“Wow, that’s amazing,” said founder Leslie Weinstein during a phone interview with AOPA when he realized five years had passed so quickly. The first mission began in November 2014 when an injured sea turtle needed transportation to Dubuque, Iowa, and GA pilots came to the rescue. The next order came in for 50 “cold-stunned” turtles that were confused migrating north in the frigid water along the New England coast, and things literally took off from there.
The organization recently partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to transport personnel and gear for the larger creatures when an emergency response is in order. “We make sure the important people get to where they are going. These types of missions are extremely dangerous for the specialists involved and it’s important to make sure they are well-rested and ready to go. That’s where we come in.” The group transports personnel back home via GA aircraft when the missions are complete.
Weinstein, a GA parts fastener supplier with operations in Idaho, grew up with a fondness for the turtles roaming near his St. Augustine, Florida, childhood home. He previously told AOPA that he combined aviation with volunteerism to unite “two endangered species—sea turtles and general aviation.”
“Our mission is to grab ‘em and go,” said Weinstein. “Can you do anything more?”