Bird’s Eye Crew
From the article “Maine’s Flying Wardens” by Lew Dietz in our Winter 1955 edition.
Maine’s flying wardens — the eyes of the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Game — constitute one of the most exclusive flying clubs in the world. The four warden pilots under their chief, Bill Turgeon, have roughly 10,000,000 acres of wildland under their guardian wings, and just about anything and everything that goes on in that expanse of wooded territory is their business. Using specially adapted Piper Cruisers, they are on patrol in fair flying weather, but being called out in emergencies is also part of a flying warden’s life. When he’s needed in a man search, air-lift operation, or forest fire, the Maine warden pilot is in the air, weather or not.
You might expect to find ex-army fliers in this exclusive organization. This isn’t the case. Early in the game, it was decided that army airmen, accustomed to turning their ships over to ground crews upon landing, were not ideally fitted for this wilderness job where a man and his plane are on their own. A warden pilot must know every inch of his plane, for it’s his baby to care for and keep in the air. These bush pilots are equipped and trained to make emergency repairs, and many a piece of hay wire has saved a flying warden from a long walk home. Flying by the seat of his pants, the Maine flying warden is his own mechanic, weatherman, and navigator.
The Aviation Division of the Maine Warden Service still provides essential services to the Pine Tree State. Search and rescue and resource management flights — the annual bald eagle census, deeryard surveys, aerial stocking of fish — are all in a day’s work for a warden pilot.
Photo by Bob Elliot (wardens)