I know a seasoned airline pilot who once told me that the acronym FAA stood for the Federation for the Abolishment of Aviation. I guess when you are the federal agency responsible for an industry that transports millions of people at 400 miles per hour and at 35,000 feet, you have to impose some strict rules that require expensive and time consuming compliance.

That draws lots of criticism from the aircraft owners and operators who must abide by those regulations. In fact, is it hard to find anyone with good things to say about the FAA but Operation Migration is a grateful exception to that rule. When the FAA instituted the Light Sport Aircraft rules, their intent was to create a category of aircraft registration and pilot licensing that was easier, and less expensive to navigate. The LSA rules were designed strictly for recreation with no commercial application.

They can’t be used by companies as an inexpensive alternative to helicopters for inspective pipe lines or power grids. It is not legal for employees to use them for small crop dusting jobs, checking on the cattle in the back forty or selling rides at tourist attractions. For valid safety reasons, those jobs are restricted to certified aircraft and commercial pilots. The only exception to that rule is to accommodate instructors. That means that the only people allowed to charge a fee for flying a Light Sport Aircraft are the people who teach you how to fly it. To add an extra degree of safety to that exception, the FAA allowed for Special, Light Sport Aircraft which are made to an approved manufacturer’s standard and must be maintained by an FAA approved mechanic instead of the aircraft pilot or owner.

The FAA granted OM an exemption because their commercial licensing program does not have a category for pilots who fly weight shift control like the systems used on our trikes. Also because they felt it was to the benefit of the American People to let us continue to introduce Whooping cranes. The original exemption they granted us was in affect for 2 years. In that time they asked us to upgrade our credentials from LSA certificates to private licences, which we did. They also wanted us to upgrade our trikes from Light Sport Aircraft to Special Light Sport Aircraft. They knew that would take some design work and money so they gave us the two years to comply.

I have been working closely with Kamron Blevins, owner and designer of North Wing Aviation in Washington State. He has modified his Apache trike design to fit our needs. Richard van Heuvelen created prop guards to fit the different frame style and FoxPro High Performance Game Calls of Lewiston, PA developed and donated custom amplifier systems to broadcast the crane call. I will be driving out to Washington in June to help with the final assembly of the trikes. Kamron will test fly the wings and tweak them for slow flight and the FAA will do the required safety inspection.

With all of this underway and the breeding season gearing up, the FAA came through for us again. They issued an exemption to the flying-for-hire rule, allowing us to continue, yet ensuring we are doing it as safely as possible. If you are interested in our application and the FAA ruling click here.

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  1. Claire DeLand May 9, 2014 11:06 am

    Wonderful example of something that works correctly. Renews a little of my faith in government agencies!!

    Thank you, FAA, and thank you Joe Duff and everyone at OM who cares enough to be patient with all the “hoop jumping”.

    Craniacs everywhere are proud of you, love you and appreciate you!! Can’t wait for the new Class – – – of birds AND aircraft!!!

  2. cathy f May 8, 2014 2:17 pm

    way 2 go FAA thank you

  3. Richard P. Chase May 8, 2014 4:27 am

    This is an outstanding example of cooperation between a governmental agency and a “customer” of the agency. Thank you for the informative article Joe.

  4. Duane May 7, 2014 6:58 pm

    After reading the FAA ruling, it seems that for once the Gubbmint got a some common sense. Everything in the ruling seemed fair and I sure believe that our 3 pilots have accumulated the necessary 250 hrs of weight shift time. I just hope that nothing holds up the new trikes from Washington.

  5. Becky May 7, 2014 5:59 pm

    Thank you FAA for realizing the importance of this work.

  6. Stacey May 7, 2014 5:25 pm

    Government agencies, corporations, Operation Migration, craniacs and people from all walks of life doing everything they can to save and increase the population of these beautiful birds…it takes a nation!

  7. Donna J. May 7, 2014 10:13 am

    Happy 🙂

  8. Betsy Kellenberger May 7, 2014 7:36 am

    Hooray for the FAA coming through again!

  9. marje lloyd May 7, 2014 7:29 am

    thank you FAA, we craniacs salute you