Please Fly Neighborly
by James E. Pyles
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News
It is time for
each of us to reflect on our responsibilities to each other in this
great country in which we live. Every pilot needs to revisit a topic
that we often overlook. The topic I am speaking about is our
responsibility to fly neighborly.
The FAA has
always received complaints concerning low flying aircraft over
noise-sensitive areas. You've seen the list'open air assemblies of
persons, churches, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, noise-sensitive
residential areas, National Park Areas, to name but a few. Other
organizations like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)
and Helicopter Association International (HAI) have addressed this
issue with handouts and guides, such as the 'Fly Neighborly Guide'
published by HAI in 1982 and revised in 1991, to help pilots make good
sound decisions when it comes to the flight path and altitudes flown.
The FAA has published Advisory Circulars (AC), such as AC 91-36C,
'Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Flight near Noise-sensitive Areas,' to
encourage pilots to choose altitudes and flight paths that will
minimize their adverse impact on others, especially around airports
and navigational aids where it is natural to have an increase of
Ask yourself this
question; 'on my last flight did I take into consideration the effects
of my flight on others?' So, what was your answer? Chances are, you
aviation regulations give us the 'minimum safe altitudes' to start our
planning, but all too often we pilots have the attitude that minimum
is good enough. While it may be safe to fly at the minimum
requirements for a particular flight, it would do the industry a lot
of good in the public relations department to add a few hundred feet
or alter our flight path to avoid needless aggravation to those below
instructors often practice over the same areas. They do 'turns about a
point' over the same barn, church, or intersection hour after hour,
day after day. It is no wonder this kind of repeated activity solicits
phone calls and letters to the local Flight Standards District Office
(FSDO) complaining about the noise and danger of all the aircraft
To add to the
concerns of the general public, we have the security issues brought to
the limelight after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
Heightened concerns about repeated flights over houses and
neighborhoods and what 'they' could be doing have accompanied the
traditional complaints about noise and the possibilities of a crash.
SO WHAT CAN
Here are a few ideas to help you plan in the future. They are just a
few of the many you might come up with on your own; so do not feel
like this is an 'all inclusive' list. Above all, remember to use good
judgment, common sense, and safety'safety should always be your first
Remember, 'altitude above you and runway behind you, don't do you
any good.' Start your takeoff roll at the beginning of the runway,
so that more of your climb to a safer, neighborly, altitude will be
over the airport. Besides, you might be glad you have that extra few
feet should you have an emergency.
If you do not know if you are over a 'congested area of a city,
town, or settlement,' then assume you are and fly at the appropriate
minimum altitude or higher.
Remember the federal aviation regulations say 'an altitude of 1,000
feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000
feet.' So, make sure you are at least that far away from the
hillside that might contain houses or people.
Take the time to find out where the noise-sensitive areas are around
you, and then do your best to avoid them. Make a concerted effort to
minimize your impact on them.
During VFR operations over noise-sensitive areas, pilots should make
every effort to fly not less than 2,000 feet above the surface,
When conducting flight training, be aware of what lies below you at
all times. Use appropriate altitudes for ground reference maneuvers.
Teach your students from the beginning to fly neighborly. (Don't
forget 14 CFR '91.303, it really does apply to you! See the shaded
sidebar box below for more info on this. )
Pilot examiners, too, can play an important role by adopting
fly-neighborly practices in their flight exams.
Get involved! Help your local airport authorities educate the
communities around the airport about local navigational aids and the
types of flights conducted there. Also, you should teach your local
airport neighbors what is allowed by regulation and how to properly
identify aircraft should the need arise.
Help your local zoning commission understand the usefulness of the
airport to the community and the necessity to have proper building
and zoning laws in effect to provide for a safe airport environment.
You never know, this just might keep a house from being built at the
end of your runway.
James E. Pyles is
the Regional Safety Program Manager for the Northwest Mountain Region,
'91.119 Minimum Safe Altitudes:
Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may
operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an
emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on
Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town,
or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an
altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a
horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of aircraft.
Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above
the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas.
In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500
feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the
minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if
the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property
on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter
shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically
prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.
'91.303 Aerobatic flight
No person may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight'
Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement;
Over an open air assembly of persons;
Within the lateral boundaries of the surface areas of Class B,
Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace designated for an airport;
Within 4 nautical miles of the center line of any Federal
Below an altitude of 1,500 feet above the surface; or
When flight visibility is less than 3 statute miles.
For the purposes of this section, aerobatic flight means an
intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft's
attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not
necessary for normal flight.