The ultralight aircraft that Operation Migration uses to lead young Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin to Florida each year do not comply with federal regulations and need to be replaced.
The organization has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise nearly $85,000 that it will use to purchase three new ultralights and cover other associated costs. The campaign has generated $25,000 in donations so far and will continue through July 26.
Operation Migration’s planes must comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules for special light-sport aircraft. During the southbound migration in December 2011 and January 2012, the ultralights were grounded for a few weeks while the FAA considered a complaint over the group’s planes. The organization eventually received the go-ahead to fly again through an exemption granted by the FAA. The exemption expires in 2014.
Operation Migration and the other agencies and organizations that make up the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership have been reintroducing cranes to the eastern United States since 2001. Currently, the population numbers 106 birds. Operation Migration expects to lead 8-10 young cranes to Florida this fall. — Matt Mendenhall, Managing Editor