Pilots N Paws Goes to the Birds

QUORK’S GREAT ADVENTURE, by Megan Burnham-Gerow, Phoenix Landing Transport Coordinator
In June, I was asked to take on the daunting job of Transport Coordinator, which I gladly did. Since I also work with Carolina’s border collie rescue, I thought I might try to tap into some of the dog transport network. What’s the worst they could do? Point, laugh and say no?

So I fired off an email to Debi Boies, the founder and director of Pilots N Paws (pilotsnpaws.org), a volunteer group made up of private and commercial pilots and animal rescue groups. All the pilots give their time, their planes and fuel to help get animals that need rides from fosters to their loving, new homes, or from shelters to foster homes. Debi was delighted that I asked, and gave me her blessing to post for a flight and see what happens.

With that in mind I posted a request for help with moving Quork, a scarlet macaw, from the Fayetteville, NC area to Asheville, NC. Since I thought most pilots would be a little concerned about how big he might be, I scoured the net to find a picture of a scarlet with a person. I also considered that seeing a picture would attract more attention, and it did! Within an hour, Jon, a pilot out of Greensboro, NC replied, offering to fly west with our beautiful macaw. He had flown dogs and cats, but wanted to take Quork since it would be such an adventure. Not only was Jon excited, but his family wanted to go as well! They loved the idea that they could spend the flight entertaining him.
Quork by plane2
After some initial setbacks and scrambling, we got all the details worked out. His foster family brought Quork to Nina, our Wilmington, NC coordinator, who would see that he got to Jon at the airport for his flight west. Poor Nina and Quork had quite the adventure just getting to the airport, but I’ll let her tell you about that next.
Quork by plane
Susan Steenstra was gracious enough to offer to meet Quork at the Asheville airport, and even brought Ms. Molly, her adopted blue and gold macaw as Quork’s welcoming committee. From what she told me, Molly was a huge hit all by herself, and when Quork arrived they wowed the crowd. Imagine walking into a waiting area to see 2 stunning macaws! Cameras clicked and flashes flashed, all centered on the birds!
Molly welcomes Quork to Asheville
This is the message I later received from Jon: “Quork was wonderful….not a peep out of him. He just sat there and looked out the window. I think he really enjoyed the flight, to be honest. I don’t know macaws, but that’s what it seemed like. He was a hit in the FBO (Family Boarding Office) at AVL (Asheville Regional Airport). Lots of people there and also young kids. People were taking pictures right and left….nice to see such an animal/bird make an impression. Sorry the flight was so long, ATC (Atlanta Tower Control) was vectoring us all over the place and when we got to AVL area, we were number “5” for landing….place was packed and weather was coming in. Thanks again for letting us help. This was a really unique trip.” It’s my fondest wish that all who met Quork will be inspired to consider adding a member of Phoenix Landing’s family to theirs.

Quork’s Excellent Adventure, Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, NC, by Nina Roshon, Wilmington, NC Phoenix Landing Coordinator
Well, as Megan stated, there was an “incident” on the way to the airport that morning…

I was concerned about driving on Highway 17 due to fires and some heavy smoke; however, all reports for the last 48 hours said the smoke in that area had dissipated. And, since my alternate route was a lot longer drive time, I elected to take 17.

As soon as I got past Surf City the smoke became at first dense and then extremely severe. I had the windows open as I think birds enjoy the breeze on their feathers, but I quickly closed everything up and turned on the A/C. However, I could still smell smoke coming into the truck. And I remember one news report stating that if one can smell smoke then one is inhaling it as well.  I also remember reading one expert’s comments that almost no other kind of smoke is as hazardous as forest fire smoke; something to do with the size/number of particulate matter in it. The smoke was so dense that one could not have breathed outside the vehicle without a respirator. Something like out of Dante’s Inferno!

I was too far along on my drive to turn around and go back to Wilmington. I called my friend Wade in Jacksonville and he reported very little smoke there. So I knew I just had to get through maybe 15 miles or so and be in the clear. I told Wade, “let me get off the phone and do the only thing I can at this point which is to drive like a bat out of hell to get through this toxic smoke” – so I did! (actually, probably going 70-75 mph on a 55 mph 4 lane highway; almost no traffic on it at this time of day on a Sunday. I had a very strong suspicion that I would get stopped on this highly traveled road but felt I had no other option and that I would deal with that scenario when and if it happened.

Well, sure enough, after about 10 miles, I saw flashing lights and a State Trooper right behind me. I jumped out of the truck (which I knew would totally concern the officer) but I knew there was NO WAY I was going to open a window with Quork in the truck. As feared, he reached for his gun, and yelled at me to get back in the vehicle. I told him “NO, I am not, as I cannot open a window – this is a matter of life and death.” He then said that it was for my own safety so a passing car wouldn’t hit me. So I said, “I will just walk over on the other side of the truck.” He calmed down when he saw that I had no weapon (and obviously no where to hide one) and I explained that I had a bird in the car, that I knew I was speeding and I was sorry but that I had no other option due to the dense and toxic smoke; I explained where I was heading. He asked to see the bird (I guess he was thinking chicken or parakeet) and he totally flipped out when he saw Quork.  “I have always wanted to get a bird like that; is he available for adoption?”  I  told him “Yes”, here is a card,  quickly told him about the Phoenix Landing adoption program, and how to apply online as an adoption candidate. He said to continue on my trip but not to drive as fast.  So I got back in the truck and after a few miles the smoke cleared by 90%. At the airport the smoke was worse again – but not anything like what we had driven through.

When Quork arrived at The Landing in Asheville, our adoption center, he was offered a drenching shower to wash away any smoke residue. He enjoyed it immensely!
Quork shower
Many thanks to pilot Jon, Megan, Nina and Susan for such a successful flight for the spectacularly beautiful Quork. Quork was adopted in 2004, and he is now looking for his next new family! For more information about our adoption program, go to phoenixlanding.org/adoption.

In July, Pilots N Paws pilot Mary Beth Wicker kindly transported Maria the Senegal from Roanoke, VA to Onslow County, NC to reunite with her former foster, Wendy Autry.
Maria by air
It was a happy reunion after another successful flight. We are most grateful to the caring pilots, Jon and Mary Beth, who gave their time and resources to help Phoenix Landing parrots. For more about Maria’s flight, go to: http://pilotsnpaws.org/2011/07/maria-the-senegal-parrot/

2 thoughts on “Pilots N Paws Goes to the Birds

  1. It is so lovely to see so many people band together to help such a beautiful bird. It is wonderful to see how caring people can rise to the occasion when asked. Excellent!


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