Pilots Plan To Explore Lewis & Clark Route

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The Flight of Discovery, a team of general aviation pilots and scientists, plans to fly above the river corridors and overland routes followed by the Lewis and Clark expedition 200 years ago. The expedition, comprising eight fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters, will depart from Clarksville, Ind., on June 1 and arrive two weeks later in Astoria, Ore. "The challenge of our expedition," said biologist and Caravan pilot Mike Mann, "is to establish the amount of change from 'baseline' conditions that has occurred since the original Corps of Discovery expedition from 18031806." The group plans to document the current cultural and natural features along the route and compare them to the historical record of the Lewis and Clark expedition. "Documenting these changes," Mann said, "will constitute an environmental barometer that can aid future decision-makers -- today's students -- in addressing natural resource conservation/protection strategies and policies." The group is also donating a "Trunk of Discovery" to a number of school districts and educational institutions along the route of flight, which contains a GPS unit, binoculars, pilot's weather computer, plant press, and a mineral test kit for classroom use in lesson plans related to the expedition. Scientists in the group include geologists, agronomists, botanists, ecologists and anthropologists. "This is not just a flight of fun and adventure," Mann told AVweb in an e-mail, "but a real working mobile laboratory and scientific expedition. Our goal of utilizing general aviation is to allow us to get some busy working scientists to agree to take a reasonable amount of time off from their regular commitments and accomplish a task that would take an incredible amount of time [using] standard research methods. With the help of local schools and communities we will be able to accomplish our goals of educating the public, scientific research, and a positive use of general aviation aircraft for the benefit of all the local communities."