FAA Grants New Exemption for Operation Migration
An FAA exemption has been granted that will allow the weight-shift-trike-led whooping crane migration effort to continue, according to an announcement by project leader Joe Duff. The pilots will not need to obtain a commercial rating but must upgrade from sport pilot to private pilot, and the trikes must be factory-built S-LSA type beginning in 2013.
After having led young endangered whooping cranes to their winter home in Florida in ultralights and LSA trikes for a decade, the 2011 migration was stopped 500 miles short of its destination by questions from the FAA related to the compensation of sport pilots and the use of experimental aircraft in the venture. Read the EAA news report from January 5, 2012. A temporary exemption was granted to continue the 2011 trip, but now the FAA has decided what they will require beginning in 2013. The new requirements are not easy and will take time, so they will not all take effect for the current 2012 migration. New S-LSA trikes will have to be modified and approved by the manufacturer to suit the nature of the work. The current E-LSA (experimental) trikes can continue to be used this year but must undergo 100-hour condition inspections similar to that of S-LSA.
See the full announcement and explanation posted by Joe Duff on March 31, 2012, in the Operation Migration Field Journal. The timing of the exemption brings relief to the team as April was the deadline for the allocation of young hatchling birds from their partners at the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.