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A Tecnam Twin Aircraft Provides Turtle Transportation

Pilots Brenda Tibbs and Timothy Lanigan flew the Tecnam P2006T down to Florida to pick up a very special turtle named Pistachio, and take her to Chicago.

Many pilots have donated their time, efforts and hearts to flying animal rescue missions. Most of those missions involve transporting dogs and cats, but a myriad of endangered species need the advantages of flight as well and one group—Turtles Fly Too!—has found a niche in providing this specialized aerial transport for a wide range of creatures.

A rescued and rehabilitated female Kemp’s sea turtle, Pistachio, needed to move from her temporary home at The Florida Aquarium, to the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo. Pistachio needed a safe way to get to her new home and that’s where Turtles Fly Too, and pilot Brenda Tibbs came into the plan.

Tibbs, owner of Bravo Flight Training, in Frederick, Maryland, joined up with co-pilot Timothy Lanigan, and on September 9 they flew the school’s Tecnam P2006T twin from Tampa International (KTPA) to Chicago Midway (KMDW), where caregivers from the zoo met the special flight. Total flight time was seven hours—which compares favorably with the 17 hours that ground transportation would have required, whether you’re a human or a turtle.

Pistachio is built like a typical Kemp’s sea turtle, about 1.5 feet in length and weighs about 35 pounds, which makes her fairly well-contained cargo. However, the flight required the airplane to accommodate her traveling kit that consisted of a plastic tub with a blanket and a latching top. Her shell was coated with Vaseline prior to her transportation to help keep her hydrated, and Tibbs misted her periodically during the flight, and at stops along the way.

When Pistachio arrived at the Brookfield Zoo on that afternoon, Chicago Zoological Society veterinary staff conducted a wellness exam, including a CT scan, on the turtle at the zoo’s Animal Hospital. Due to the pandemic all indoor buildings at Brookfield Zoo are currently closed. Although guests are not able to see Pistachio in person, once she gets acclimated to her new home, a member of the animal care staff will introduce Pistachio during a special “Bringing the Zoo to You” Facebook Live chat in late September.