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FAA Says Pilots Can Guide Whooping Cranes

JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
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French ultralight-plane pilot Christian Moullec performs with his trained Barnacle geese and cranes over Bex airfield, during the Switzerland's largest Airshow 01 Sept 2007 in Bex. The French environmentalist raises birds and flies with geese, swans and cranes to make the public sensitive to the protection of the migratory birds.  (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

French ultralight-plane pilot Christian Moullec performs with his trained Barnacle geese and cranes over Bex airfield, during the Switzerland’s largest Airshow 01 Sept 2007 in Bex. The French environmentalist raises birds and flies with geese, swans and cranes to make the public sensitive to the protection of the migratory birds. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal aviation officials will allow conservationists to lead 10 young whooping cranes to their winter home in Florida using an ultralight aircraft that the cranes apparently think is a mother bird.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Monday that it will grant a one-time waiver to the regulations so that the migration can be completed.

Conservationists with Operation Migration are trying to re-establish an Eastern flyway for whooping cranes, which nearly became extinct in the 1940s, by teaching young birds how to make the journey. But their pilots are paid for their work. FAA regulations say ultralights can only be flown for personal use.

The cranes and their bird-plane were more than halfway through their 1,285-mile journey from Wisconsin when they were grounded in northwestern Alabama last month.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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