Operation Migration No Longer Flies 'Naked'
October 29, 2009 — Operation Migration launched its ninth southward journey last week, its experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) leading 20 young whooping cranes from Central Wisconsin to their wintering grounds in Florida. This year, however, marks the first time the aircraft won’t be “flying naked” – that is, without insurance protection – thanks to the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan.
Bob Mackey of the Falcon Insurance Agency, administrator for the EAA Plan, described his meeting with Operation Migration CEO and Co-Founder Joe Duff at AirVenture this year. “I was surprised at the fact that they were not able to get coverage before,” Mackey said. “I immediately realized that our program might just work for them, so Joe and I discussed their insurance needs and subsequently came up with terms for the insurance package.”
So, for the first time ever, Operation Migration has secured liability insurance and physical damage (hull) insurance through the EAA Powered Parachute and WSC (Trike) Insurance Plan for their four Cosmos E-LSA. The juvenile cranes embarked last week from Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on a route that will take them through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia before the ultimate destination at St. Marks and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges along Florida's Gulf Coast.
This successful landmark project is led by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing this highly imperiled species in eastern North America. Once led south, the cranes are able to migrate on their own, without assistance, in following years.
The goal is to reintroduce 125 cranes, including 25 breeding pairs, at which point researchers believe the population would be self-sustaining. Known as the Eastern Migratory Population, these reintroduced birds currently number 77. Today, there are only about 500 birds in existence, with just 350 of them in the wild.
To follow blog posts from the team as they head south, including a “Crane Cam,’ visit http://www.operationmigration.org/Field_Journal.html.