Ten young whooping cranes and the bird-like plane they think is their mother had flown more than halfway to their winter home in Florida when federal regulators stepped in.
Now the birds and the plane are grounded in Alabama while the Federal Aviation Administration investigates whether the journey violates regulations because the pilot was being paid by a conservation group to lead the cranes on their first migration instead of working for free.
FAA regulations say only pilots with commercial pilot licenses can fly for hire.
They couldn’t have waited to investigate this and accordingly dole out the fines after the birds had reached Florida?
The rules are aimed, in part, at preventing businesses or charities from taking passengers for joyrides in sometimes risky planes.
“That’s a valid rule. They shouldn’t be hired to do that. But it wasn’t written, I believe, to stop a wildlife reintroduction,” Joe Duff, an Operation Migration co-founder and one of its pilots, said.