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Reaching new heights for migratory bird conservation
at the Oshkosh Airshow

Booth staff talk with visitors about the flying mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other bureaus within the Department of Interior at the Oshkosh Airshow. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.

Booth staff talk with visitors about the flying mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other bureaus within the Department of Interior at the Oshkosh Airshow. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.

By Larry Dean
Regional Office – External Affairs

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service soared to new heights as staff from both our manned and unmanned migratory bird flying crews joined record setting crowds at the Airventure 2019 Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin, sharing information about their mission and displaying some of the aircraft used in that mission.

Those representing the Service included:  Anthony Lascano - National Aviation Manager; Brian Lubinski - Headquarters Migratory Birds Surveys Branch and located in Minnesota; Steve Earsom - Headquarters Migratory Birds; Mark Koneff - Headquarters Migratory Birds Surveys Branch; Scott Bishaw - Unmanned Aircraft System Program Coordinator and located in Florida; Jeff Lucas - Headquarters National Wildlife Refuge System Law Enforcement; Dave Sowards - Pilot and located in Alaska; and Thomas Greil - National Aviation Training Specialist and located in Idaho.

Service aircraft on static display included the Partenavia Observer propeller plane used for wildlife counts, aerial habitat and landcover mapping as well as emergency response; and the Quest Kodiak 100 aircraft also used for wildlife counts and aerial habitat and landcover mapping, an aircraft that includes floats for water landing and can be used for emergency response such as natural disasters or contaminant spills.

Those staffing the information booth also shared information on the unmanned drone aircraft used by our certified crews. “Our unmanned aircraft systems are like a boots on the ground level of survey aircraft and a cost-effective alternative as well. While we share the mission of our manned flights, there are unique benefits from both that are vital to the Service aviation needs,” Jeff Lucas said. “Unmanned flights can be launched quickly and can even offer a safe alternative if needing to perform the mission in dangerous conditions such as smoke from a fire where there is low visibility and other possible perils.”

He added, “Manned aircraft in comparison have many advantages as well, including covering much larger areas than we do with drones and they’re able to spend greater amounts of time completing the work. For example, drone flights run between 10-45 minutes on a battery pack in comparison with line of sight necessary to control them.”

Anthony Lascano said, “The air show in Oshkosh is a huge event and a perfect fit for us as we not only are there to inform the general public about what we do, but more importantly it’s the chance to reach pilots in attendance and let them know about our mission and our need to recruit talented pilots into our program. The average age of our pilots is right around 50, so we’ve seen our numbers drop as retirements start to impact our staff. For example, dropping from 56 to 44 pilots in just a few years.”

Lascano added, “Our pilots are unique in many ways as we all wear dual hats. Many of us are biologists who also became pilots on our own with certification by the FAA and then were selected and later trained into our flying jobs with further certification by the Department of Interior and from the Service. With our pilot population becoming depleted, being at a show attended by a great number of people who fly in their own planes for the event is a win-win opportunity.”

“It’s an honor to share with those attending what we do with this modern blend of manned and unmanned aircraft systems, talented aircrews, the constant and quick evolution of equipment available to do our aerial work and even the chance to modernize existing planes to employ these new technologies. It’s very exciting times in a very exciting job. This airshow is a great place to share that,” he said.

Despite stormy weather through a portion of the annual airshow, an estimated 642,000 people attended. Attendees had the chance to learn a bit more about the Service’s flying mission, those of partner agencies and with the chance to enjoy a full slate of other aerial activities that make this weeklong show one of the largest in the country.

Those attending drove in or flew in, with event organizers noting that there were more than 10,000 aircraft that flew in for the show alone before you even begin to count the long line of cars entering to find their parking space each day.

Aerial performances were also conducted throughout each day, including spectacular night flying performances. The aerial events featured both vintage and modern-day aircraft, and offered those attending a number of opportunities for a ride in an aircraft above the showgrounds, be it by helicopter, B-17 aluminum overcast and more.

With such a large number of people in attendance, tentative plans to return for next year’s show are in the works to once again share with a massive audience, and potential future pilot candidates the important mission of our Service aviators.

The Service’s Quest Kodiak 100 aircraft on static display at the show. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.

The Service’s Quest Kodiak 100 aircraft on static display at the show. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.

The Service’s Partenavia Observer aircraft on static display at the show. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.

The Service’s Partenavia Observer aircraft on static display at the show. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.


Last updated: August 16, 2019