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FAA Requires Operation Migration Pilots To Hold Private Licenses

Feds Can't Tax Birds, So New Aircraft To Be Purchased With Support From Donors

New airplanes will lead endangered whooping cranes from their summer range to Florida for the winter in coming years, and the pilots flying those airplanes will have private pilot licenses.

The FAA required the group to make the changes because it pays salaries to its pilots, according to a report appearing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. FARs for ultralight flying do not allow the aircraft to be flown for hire.

The paper reports that Operation Migration has received a waiver from the FAA good through April 30th of next year, giving the organization time to raise money from donors for new airplanes, and for its pilots get their licenses. Operation Migration founder Joe Duff told the paper he was appreciative of the agency's willingness to work with the non-profit so that it can continue its mission of guiding the birds to their winter habitat in Florida. But, he said, "there was just no space for us in the rules."

Operation Migration is a low-and-slow proposition. Its aircraft must cruise between 30 and 50 mph so that the birds learning the migration route can keep pace.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said that the agency believes that the group does good work and "we want to help them achieve their mission."

FMI: www.operationmigration.org, www.faa.gov

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