Lindbergh film premieres at Sun ‘n Fun

Patty Wagstaff prepares for a flight with one of the KWS pilots.

Patty Wagstaff prepares for a flight with one of the KWS pilots.

They are risky missions with an important purpose.

The game wardens who fly for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) routinely fly low and slow in airplanes over the parks of Kenya to protect their endangered inhabitants from the threat of poachers and human encroachment. The flying is demanding and the caliber of training required to do it safely is scarce in that part of the world.

At Sun ‘n Fun, the Lindbergh Foundation premiered its new film, “Over Africa! Low and Slow with the Kenya Wildlife Service,” which documents the training of 12 KWS pilots and their quest to protect all wildlife, including elephants, which are mercilessly hunted by poachers, in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park and the Masai Mara.

Over the years, KWS pilots have crashed or made emergency landings with alarming frequency. Air show performer Patty Wagstaff has helped change that. Acting on an invitation from KWS advisor and supporter Bill Clark, Wagstaff took her sixth trip to Kenya this year to help train these pilots.

“Pilots aren’t always taught how to fly low and slow,” she said. “The KWS pilots, however, commonly fly under 200 feet, so receiving aerobatic and maneuvering training is extremely valuable to them. Working with these pilots is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Funded this year by The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, with additional support provided by the David Clark Co., Wagstaff’s expedition was the most ambitious and successful ever, according to Lindbergh officials. Joining Wagstaff was air show performer, vintage airplane owner and backcountry flying virtuoso Rich Sugden. Their air work was complemented with intensive ground school classes from John and Martha King, who serve as chairman and secretary of the Lindbergh Foundation.

Former CNN correspondent and now freelance producer/director/reporter Miles O’Brien, also a Lindbergh board member, and his wife, Sandy, documented the mission every step of the way. Flying with the KWS pilots on patrols, they installed cameras on a Piper Super Cub, Aviat Husky, Cessna 180 and American Champion Super Decathlon, which were used during training and are part of the KWS air fleet.

The film also will air at the 2009 Lindbergh Award Celebration, slated for May 16 in Oshkosh.

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