Whooping cranes are cleared for takeoff after getting FAA exemption
but the story is actually an example of human ingenuity at its best:
Operation Migration is an organization that assists whooping cranes hatched in captivity, from their first steps through their first migratory trip south. To help the whooping cranes become true wild animals when they start to live on their own, the organization practices "isolation rearing," in which all people who come into contact with the birds must wear a costume that looks like a whooping crane.
In this case, both the pilot and the plane are outfitted to look like the endangered bird.
There's a sub-plot here, though:
Back in December, in Franklin County, Alabama -- approximately 693 miles into a 1,285-mile journey from Wisconsin to Florida -- the flight of the nine endangered birds was halted and they were put in a pen until further notice.
The issue at hand was a Federal Aviation Administration regulation that forbids paying pilots who fly the small ultralight aircraft used to guide the birds. Specifically, "sport pilot aircraft" cannot be used for commercial purposes, and when the pilots are compensated that makes it commercial, according to FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.
And a solution to this vexing problem:
Joe Duff, co-founder and CEO of Operation Migration, the group leading the crane effort, says its pilots are full-time employees who get compensated for working with the birds seven days a week -- working on many different job responsibilities -- and that the flying is done on a volunteer basis.So, we can all rest easy tonight. The FAA is hard at work protecting our skies from paid volunteers, and the good pilots of Operation Migration are generously volunteering their time without pay.