Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cranes head north; Operation Migration granted permission to continue flights

CHASSAHOWITZKA — The nine wayward whooping cranes that made up Operation Migration's Class of 2011 have begun their migration north, and, despite earlier concerns, they won't be the organization's last.

The Federal Aviation Administration has granted the group an exemption to the rules that grounded the ultralight-led flights and cranes for several weeks this past winter.

That delay and weather issues, including an unseasonably warm winter, are thought to have contributed to the shorter-than-usual Wisconsin-to-Florida flight. The birds got no farther than northern Alabama, where they simply stopped following the ultralights they were taught were their parents.

Some of the birds were supposed to fly to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Panhandle, and others to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, straddling Citrus and Hernando counties. It was the first time the migration was cut short in the 11 years that a coalition of organizations has worked to reintroduce migratory whooping cranes to the eastern United States.

The young birds spent the past two months at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Ala., learning how to exist in the wild alongside other whooping cranes and sandhill cranes.

The other wild birds started their migration weeks ago. On Thursday morning, ultralight pilot Brooke Pennypacker reported to an Operation Migration staff member: "(The whooping cranes) are gone. I watched them thermal and climb higher and higher for the past hour and they're now out of sight. Be safe."

At last report, the cranes were already within 10 miles of one of their Kentucky migration stops.

Late last year, the FAA put Operation Migration on notice that the nonprofit organization was violating a rule that prohibits ultralight pilots from being paid. A temporary waiver was granted to complete the 2011 migration; then a permanent solution was sought. To get the exemption, Operation Migration had to prove that there was a public benefit and that the flights were safe, according to an online post from the organization's founder, Joe Duff.

Duff said the history of the project, which brought migratory whooping cranes back to a geographic area where there had been none for 100 years, and the strong support of crane enthusiasts satisfied the first point.

To meet the safety test, pilots will have to upgrade their credentials from light sport aircraft certificates to private licenses. While each has many more flight hours than required, the pilots will have to log flying time with an instructor and take written and flight tests.

They will also have to change to a different aircraft designation, and the organization must work with a manufacturer to design an aircraft fitting the new category, but flying slowly enough to lead the cranes.

Operation Migration has until 2013 to accomplish that.

"We are very grateful to everyone for all the support we received, and to the FAA for understanding how important this project is to conservation of whooping cranes and to the thousands of people who follow it," Duff wrote.

Cranes head north; Operation Migration granted permission to continue flights 04/16/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 16, 2012 10:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.