A yearly north central Florida tradition is having trouble taking flight. Operation Migration, which leads a group of whooping cranes from Wisconsin to winter locations around Florida, is grounded in Alabama because of regulatory problems. Board of Directors member David Sakrison says if the dispute is not settled quickly, the birds may not make it to the sunshine state.[audio:http://www.wuft.org/news/files/2012/01/SAKRISON6.mp3]
He says the FAA supports Operation Migration so they are working closely with the agency to get back off the ground. The regulation in question prohibits pilots flying a Light Sport Aircraft from flying for hire or to further a business or charity. Sakrison says the FAA has approved Operation Migration in inspection for years.[audio:http://www.wuft.org/news/files/2012/01/SAKRISON1.mp3]
He says following an inspection in August, the FAA indicated it would further investigate Operation Migration, so the group voluntarily grounded its planes. He says they are now working on a waiver to exempt them from this regulation.[audio:http://www.wuft.org/news/files/2012/01/SAKRISON7.mp3]
While the dispute is getting settled, the birds are being cared for in Alabama. Sakrison says the dispute could take days or weeks to settle, so the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is working on a back-up plan for getting the birds to a winter location.