FAA Rules on Whooping Cranes & Friendly Skies

You know you’re in Wisconsin when the story of the month is about a flock of whooping cranes. After being grounded since mid-December, a conservation organization named Operation Migration was finally allowed to continue its efforts to teach a group of nine young cranes the route to their winter homes in Florida. Being endangered, the cranes had no parents or other experienced guides to show them the migration path that they were to take every year.

Operation Migration figured “Why not outfit a plane to look like a crane and show them ourselves”. They did just that. Unfortunately after departing from Wisconsin and flying 693 miles, the FAA stopped the pilot on the grounds that the sport pilot aircraft cannot be used for commercial purposes. Paying the pilot to guide the cranes made the flight commercial and thus a violation of agency regulation. I don’t know what’s worse, the cranes never completing their 1,285 migration to Florida or being held up in Alabama until the FAA reverded its decision. On Tuesday (after a 1,400 signature online petition and lot of flip-flopping) the FAA granted a one-time exemption and let the pilots complete the migration just this once. A long-term solution is in the works. Thankfully the cranes are now nearing the St. Marks and Chassahowitzka national wildlife refugee and are enjoying the same Florida winter heat as celebrities who lay down millions for winter homes. Those damn spoiled cranes.

[Thanks Pedro for the tip]