It's Not About the Plane

Written by Walt Rhodes
Friday, May 25, 2012

Walt RhodesOne of the most fortunate aspects of this job is being able to aerially observe waterfowl across all of the habitats in North America over their entire annual cycle. As exciting as that seems, there’s additional perks to the job. What I like is meeting all of the different people. Everyone has a story if you take the time to listen, and the folks I have come across are as diverse as the waterfowl and the habitats we survey.

The list is long, but it includes hotel personnel at the front desk, waiters and waitresses, airport support crews, taxi cab drivers, etc. Some are farther from home than me just so they have a job, and others are full of life and on an adventure. Take, for example, Michael and Bill Emmer, a father-and-son duo who are flying from Orlando, FL, to Anchorage, AK, in a rented Cessna 172. Caleb and I ran into them on an overnight stop in Fort Nelson, British Columbia. Bill is a retired airline pilot and Michael wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps as well as become a USAF Reserve C-17 pilot. As part of the process, Michael needs to build flight time as he works towards additional licenses and ratings. Flying literally from one end of the United States to the other will go a long ways towards that goal.

Lance Armstrong likes to ride bikes but wrote about life’s journey. I like to fly planes but this survey and job goes well beyond that. It’s a journey as well, fortunately sprinkled with folks that demonstrate what’s right in the world. Safe travels Michael and Bill.

Michael (left) and Bill Emmer of Orlando, FL, prepare to load up their rented Cessna 172 in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, on their way to Alaska.

Michael (left) and Bill Emmer of Orlando, FL, prepare to load up their rented Cessna 172 in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, on their way to Alaska. Photo by Walt Rhodes, USFWS