FAA Allows Whooping Crane Migration to Resume

Agency has change of heart after halting flight last month.

Operation Migration

Operation Migration

** A conservationist with Operation Migration
uses an ultralight to help relocate a group of
whooping cranes.**

After grounding the pilot of an ultralight late last month for operating an “illegal” commercial operation, FAA officials are again allowing conservationists to lead 10 young whooping cranes to their winter home in Florida using an ultralight that the cranes think is a mother bird.

The FAA said in a statement Monday that it will grant a one-time waiver to its commercial regulations so that the migration can be completed.

“The FAA has granted an exemption to Operation Migration that will allow pilots to continue to aid the whooping crane migration,” the FAA said in a statement, which was posted on the agency’s Facebook page. “Normally, the FAA limits light sport aircraft and pilots to personal flights without compensation. Because the operation is in ‘mid-migration,’ the FAA is granting a one-time exemption so the migration can be completed. The FAA will work with Operation Migration to develop a more comprehensive, long-term solution.”

Conservationists with Operation Migration are trying to re-establish an Eastern flyway for whooping cranes, which nearly became extinct in the 1940s, by teaching young birds how to make the journey. But their pilots are paid for their work, and FAA regulations stipulate that ultralights can only be flown for personal use.

The cranes and their bird-plane were more than halfway through their 1,285-mile journey from Wisconsin when they were grounded in northwestern Alabama last month.