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Why haven’t the whopping cranes arrived in Climax?

Published 6:35pm Tuesday, January 10, 2012

By JEAN OUZTS

Climax Correspondent

Around this time each year, folks in and around the Climax area look forward to the arrival and migration of the whooping cranes.

Last week, I received a message from the owner of the land where they stop over and rest in Climax, and he referred me to the web site of the migration operation. He said the migration was “on hold” at present.

However, this Monday, I received some good news.

According to Joe Duff, of the main office of Operation Migration, the FAA has granted a waiver to allow the pilots to finish the migration of this year’s whooping cranes. This means we should be seeing the cranes in Climax soon.

It was uncertain earlier if the cranes would be coming, because there was a conflict between the Operation Migration people and the FAA. According to information written previously by David Sakrison, board of directors of Operation Migration, Ripon, Wis., on the web site of the www.operationmigration.org field journal:

“The 2011 ultralight-led whooping crane migration is currently on hold in Alabama while the Federal Aviation Administration sorts out a regulatory issue involving OM’s pilots and aircraft.

“The FFA is working with OM to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In the meantime, this year’s cohort is safely penned in Franklin County, Ala. watched over daily by OM personnel.

“The issue in question is whether or not OM’s pilots are flying ‘for hire,’ or for the furtherance of a non-profit. OM aircraft are licensed as light sport aircraft (LSAs), which came into effect in 2008. FAA regulations prohibit flying LSAs for hire or as part of business activities. The FAA has begun the process of evaluating a waiver to OM, exempting its pilots and aircraft from that rule.

“OM has always maintained that its pilots are hired for a wide range of non-profit skills and duties, and that they volunteer their time as pilots. In 2010, the FAA Flight Safety District Office (FSDO) in Milwaukee investigated the status of OM’s flight operations and accepted OM’s explanation. We were told by the FSDO director that ‘no further action would be taken.’ Based on that ruling, we began the 2011 season.

“In August 2011, the FAA inspected our aircraft, which passed with flying colors. In November, a letter of investigation was sent to each pilot. After discussion with the FAA in December, Operation Migration voluntarily ceased any flying while the matter is resolved. We hoped that would happen during the Christmas break, but it is taking longer than anticipated.”

You can read more about the whooping crane’s migration, especially their daily activities, at www.operationmigration.org/Fieldjornal.

It is good to hear that the FAA conflict was worked out. Maybe we will see the birds in the sky before long.

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