November 17, 2008 Charleston, SC - Today is the first fly-able weather day for the Wildlife Trust aerial survey team as they begin searching for the North Atlantic Right Whale off the South Carolina coast. The team took off at 0800 from John's Island Airport and is flying north to south from 32.20N to 30.01N, and from shore eastward to 79 06W, or generally speaking Cape Romain to Fripp Island.
The four person aerial survey team, includes a pilot and co-pilot and two spotters aft and on either side. Normally one spotter takes notes while the other photographs the target whale.
The team is aboard a white and orange Cessna 337. This is the same type of twin engine model Cessna that was used extensively during the Viet Nam War for ground support and reconnaissance missions.
Affectionately called the "push me pull you" after the Dr. Doolittle's Lama it's official designation is O-2 which was immediately earned the nick name Oscar Deuce.
The plane offers the redundancy of two engines with the high wing aspects of a single engine Cessna with unrestricted visibility below, perfect for this type of observation duty.
The team will be flying at 1000' traveling up and down the South Carolina coast line. Weather is key to the survey team's success. The four person crew will fly on days when the weather has at least 3 miles of visibility and a 1200 foot ceiling. Wind is also a factor as heavy wave action makes it harder to spot the migrating whales.
The team plans on flying daily weather permitting until April.
Previous story about the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale
Also a related story by Allyson Bird at the Post and Courier.