Turtles Fly Too

Turtles Fly Too’s mission is to coordinate and facilitate general aviation involvement in large scale stranded sea turtle relocation efforts. We coordinate with general aviation pilots to donate time, aircraft, fuel, and labor while leaving a lasting mark on endangered species rescue efforts.

Our other mission is to educate students and other non-profit organizations about the importance of general aviation to our society and sea turtle rescue operations. Participants are welcomed to explore a number of magnificently preserved specimens generously gifted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) while they learn about sea turtle migration patterns, what puts them at risk for stranding, and how to conserve their species.

In 2014, turtles cold-stunned in New England needed help

Hundreds of pilots from all over the United States offered their airplanes. Pilots from Canada, England, and France called, offering to copilot a flight if needed. The recipients of the goodwill? The sea turtles of Massachusetts, stranded on Cape Cod beaches after a bitter cold snap.

During what’s known as the “cold-stun season” when water temperatures drop and turtles’ body temperatures fall below acceptable limits, turtles in the Greater Atlantic region are picked up by the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and brought to the New England Aquarium for initial medical care. After being stabilized they’re transported – usually by ground, sometimes by air – to rehabilitation facilities both in New England and farther south. But this particular year, at the start of the season, the New England Aquarium was already overwhelmed. They had hit their emergency capacity, 80 turtles, within the first three days according to Kate Sampson, the Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator for NOAA. She turned to Leslie Weinstein, founder and manager of True-Lock, an aviation fastener company with extensive ties to the general aviation community.

General Aviation to the Rescue

Through his contacts in General Aviation, Leslie Weinstein of the University of Florida Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research Development Board, got the word out and pilots volunteered their time and planes to transport turtles to rehabilitation facilities across the SE U.S. Leslie is an entrepreneur who has owned various companies involved in agriculture, real estate, engineering and marketing. Leslie’s passion and dedication to sea turtle involvement extend into his youth when as a teenager he saved thousands of sea turtle eggs each summer from being vandalized, stolen or consumed as a delicacy during a time when education and research were limited. Today, Leslie and his company, True-Lock LLC, facilitate the transportation of hundreds of “cold shock” sea turtles through his network of General Aviation pilots and FBO’s throughout the US each year and has committed to NOAA to continue the program as every sea turtle counts.

Leslie’s efforts, and those of the General Aviation industry, as well as many volunteers, made it possible for hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles to get the medical treatment and rehabilitation they needed so they could be released back into the wild.

An Ongoing Effort

While some might find sea turtles and airplanes an unlikely match, Leslie Weinstein does not. “The little sea turtle -an endangered species- and general aviation -another endangered species- have come together to rescue each other. That’s the way I see it.” Today, Turtles Fly Too has evolved into a full fledged 501(c)(3) for the purpose of maintaining the ongoing rescue, rehabilitation, research and education efforts for endangered sea turtles.