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Low flying aircraft

BigAl07

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#21
I saw the most bizarre thing the other day. I was driving across the interstate bridge from downtown Portland, and from there you can see a good ways down the river towards the industrial area. A small one or two person plane flew over the bridge and started descending rather rapidly. At first I thought it might have been a seaplane, but realized it didn't have the buoys (term?) on the landing struts. It continued descending til it was literally less than 10 feet off the water and went down the river until I couldn't see it anymore. I have no idea if this move was legal or not, but it surprised me to see a plane flying so incredibly low in city limits above a river (not lake or ocean) not near an airport. Any pilots have insight into this kind of incident?

(c)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.
 
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#22
In sparsely populated areas (and the term sparsely is never defined so they've given us enough rope to hang ourselves . . .) that's perfectly legal. Below is a copy of the actual Regulations:

§ 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.
Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

(a)Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard topersons or property on the surface.

(b)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 the aircraft.

(c)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.

(d)Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface -

(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

(2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.


I highlighted the section that pertains to this topic!!
Thank you! I appreciate the feedback. I figured it was legal given how often it occurs. And the mountain I live on would certainly qualify as sparsely populated, it's a community of 1100 people, with about 400 homes, in 330 square miles. I do believe pilots tend to fly over us lower than they would in the valley since they already had to climb 2500 feet just to get here. In any case, I'll carry on with my flights and watch out for them! Thanks again for the informative response.
 
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Wilbur&Garth

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#23
(c)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.
I knew open water was ok. Just open water through the middle of a city seems a bit weird.
 
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#24
For those reading this, this is true only in the USA
Nope, It's also True in the UK.
I have no Idea about France.

To be frank, the more I read on this Forum the more I am turning to the view that the best thing would be to ban Drones for personal ownership and use, the sheer amount of bad information and lack of responsible behaviour (in other threads) on display is shocking and if openly bragging about illegal flights is ok on a mainstream forum, then I shudder to think what goes on incognito.
 
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#25
Nope, It's also True in the UK.
I have no Idea about France.
Talking about bad information, how the FAR part91 applies in the UK ?

Here is the rule in the UK:

(f) Except when necessary for take-off or landing, or except by permission from the competent authority, a VFR flight shall not be flown:
(1) over the congested areas of cities, towns or settlements or over an open-air assembly of persons at a height less than 300 m (1 000 ft) above the highest obstacle within a radius of 600 m from the aircraft;
(1) elsewhere than as specified in (1), at a height less than 150 m (500 ft) above the ground or water, or 150 m (500 ft) above the highest obstacle within a radius of 150 m (500 ft) from the aircraft.


In UK, no aircraft can fly below 500ft, except for training purpose which is 150ft as far as I remember. Read the SERA
 
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DanMan32

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#26
Pedestrians have the right of way over cars too, but peds still have a responsibility.
 

BigAl07

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#27
Pedestrians have the right of way over cars too, but peds still have a responsibility.
How are the two even remotely related?

If a sUAS takes down a plane we lose our toy grade equipment and the plane could be greatly damaged or even damaged to the point of not able to continue flight and there are HUMAN beings on board.

Comparing apples to mud holes when comparing pedestrians/cars to drones/manned aircraft.
 

JDawg

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#28
Nope, It's also True in the UK.
I have no Idea about France.

To be frank, the more I read on this Forum the more I am turning to the view that the best thing would be to ban Drones for personal ownership and use, the sheer amount of bad information and lack of responsible behaviour (in other threads) on display is shocking and if openly bragging about illegal flights is ok on a mainstream forum, then I shudder to think what goes on incognito.
Well Frank you aren't going to get your way, sorry.
 

DanMan32

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#29
How are the two even remotely related?

If a sUAS takes down a plane we lose our toy grade equipment and the plane could be greatly damaged or even damaged to the point of not able to continue flight and there are HUMAN beings on board.

Comparing apples to mud holes when comparing pedestrians/cars to drones/manned aircraft.
We're talking about right of way and it's practical application. A car can inflict heavy damage or death to a pedestrian, that's why they have right of way. But cars can't stop on a dime or even divert in time so if the pedestrian did not do his part, the driver is not charged.

I can't always detect, decide and act fast enough with an approaching plane to get out of his way. I could in fact get IN his way, trying to get out of it, particularly by VLOS. I agree we should be the primary ones looking out, but that's not always practical or even possible. So planes should also do their part to share the airspace. You stay up there above 500', I'll stay down here below 400'. Besides, in staying above 500', you'll avoid those power lines you didn't think of.
 
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aokusman

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#30
I saw a plane flying below 400' while flying my mav air today. Is that legal?
They were flying along the coast so maybe the pilot was giving his passenger a cool view of the water.
I assume that anyone flying an aircraft today would expect to hit a drone if their cruising at 400' agl or below, am I wrong?
Pilots do know we are out there dont they? Any feedback from licensed pilots would be appreciated.
There was a second plane at the same location half hour later same thing, below 400'
I left that location drove 7 miles to another location on Galveston Bay and a Helicopter flew out over the Bay and yes it was also at around 300'.
What are aircraft rules flying vls ? I flew in a small plane 25 years ago in the same general area and we were above 1000' going one direction and about 2000' another direction. When we got to the beach we did descend some but I remember pilot saying he could not go lower than 700', I'm not sure of the 700' but whatever it was he knew the rules and wasnt going to break them.
So could some real pilots let me know if its common to fly at such low altitudes.
Thanks for responses in advance
Before picking you flight locations are you checking the FAA app to make sure you can even fly there. Seems you are close to airports and helipads.
 

Norm

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#35
Pipelines are inspected by low altitude helicopters flight Also saw some army helicopters almost ripping off telephone post when going by !
 

Peter Hughes

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#36
14 CFR 91.119: An aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure. So you can fly 1ft above the ground/water as long as you are 500ft away from any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

As drone operator you have to yield to any manned aircraft regardless of whether this aircraft is in violation of airspace regulations or not.

Personally I might go as low as 200ft to practice emergency landings, but I would pick a designated practice area or the middle of nowhere, not above a beach with people on it.
Sorry if this is being silly but: you say “ An aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person etc”. Does that restriction not extend upwards? That being the case It infers a minimum altitude of 500 feet ( unless landing obviously).
I appreciate we need to yield to manned aircraft and I appreciate emergency service helicopters may need to fly below 400 feet for operational reasons but surely, if the 500 feet rule you quoted does apply vertically then planes should not be routinely flying around below that height?
 

Congoblue

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#37
Sorry if this is being silly but: you say “ An aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person etc”. Does that restriction not extend upwards? That being the case It infers a minimum altitude of 500 feet ( unless landing obviously).
Only if there are persons, vessels etc underneath. So presumably fine on open land or empty water.
 
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#39
The regulations have been covered by others as it pertains to fixed wing aircraft, but ron77584 also mentioned a helicopter. A helicopter can be operated at much lower minimums than a fixed wing aircraft as long as it abides by 91.119 as stated by others. A few years ago I was at the FSDO and got talking regulations with a few of the guys and the topic of the difference between fixed wing and helicopter compliance of 91.119. I’ll try to summarize that discussion.

Although it might be helpful to try and define what is a congested area. I was taught a rule of thumb a long time ago that any town or area highlighted in yellow on a FAA sectional map would be considered congested.

First, all aircraft must abide by part 91.119 but it also differentiates between aircraft. There are different paragraphs that do this. There is nothing that differentiates any aircraft type in paragraph (a) which reads;
Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

So, if you have any problem while flying any aircraft that causes a forced landing, such as a power failure, and you cause “undue” hazard to persons of property on the surface. You were not flying at an altitude necessary for safety. BTW the definition of “undue” was ambiguous at best.

Second, Helicopters are further defined in paragraph (d);
Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—
(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

A helicopter can be operated in a congested area and be closer than the minimums stated by others of 500 ft. This is allowed because a helicopter is more maneuverable in a power failure (autorotation) than a fixed wing aircraft. A competent helicopter pilot can put a helicopter down in a 100x100 ft area.

To answer the question, if the fixed wing aircraft pilot observed he was 500 ft AGL (this is an unexact science using your "eyeometer" the same way you judged he was at 400 AGL) and he didn’t damage anything on the ground, he was operating within the regulations. The helicopter was also within regulations because he also didn’t damage anything on the ground.

The part where you mention the pilot mentioning the 700’ was most likely due to routes and altitudes that were prescribed by the FAA that can be found in the Chart Supplement, Sectional, Terminal, or Flyaway charts. A local operator can also have an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that would regulate how their pilots fly in and out of certain airports.

Hope this helps clarify helicopter operations vs fixed wing. BTW quick hint on how to tell altitudes of other objects around the drone using your camera or FPV. If you have your camera level anything touching the horizon is at your same altitude.

As for the right of way rules, I think 91.115 paragraph (e) applies here. It states; Special circumstances. When aircraft, or an aircraft and a vessel, approach so as to involve risk of collision, each aircraft or vessel shall proceed with careful regard to existing circumstances, including the limitations of the respective craft.

Drones are usually the size of birds and depending on the circumstances the pilot many not be able to see the drone until avoiding a collision may exceed the limitations of the aircraft. Therefore in the eyes of the FAA the drone is responsible to see and avoid other air traffic.
 
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BigAl07

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#40
The regulations have been covered by others as it pertains to fixed wing aircraft, but ron77584 also mentioned a helicopter. A helicopter can be operated at much lower minimums than a fixed wing aircraft as long as it abides by 91.119 as stated by others. A few years ago I was at the FSDO and got talking regulations with a few of the guys and the topic of the difference between fixed wing and helicopter compliance of 91.119. I’ll try to summarize that discussion.

Although it might be helpful to try and define what is a congested area. I was taught a rule of thumb a long time ago that any town or area highlighted in yellow on a FAA sectional map would be considered congested.

First, all aircraft must abide by part 91.119 but it also differentiates between aircraft. There are different paragraphs that do this. There is nothing that differentiates any aircraft type in paragraph (a) which reads;
Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

So, if you have any problem while flying any aircraft that causes a forced landing, such as a power failure, and you cause “undue” hazard to persons of property on the surface. You were not flying at an altitude necessary for safety. BTW the definition of “undue” was ambiguous at best.

Second, Helicopters are further defined in paragraph (d);
Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—
(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

A helicopter can be operated in a congested area and be closer than the minimums stated by others of 500 ft. This is allowed because a helicopter is more maneuverable in a power failure (autorotation) than a fixed wing aircraft. A competent helicopter pilot can put a helicopter down in a 100x100 ft area.

To answer the question, if the fixed wing aircraft pilot observed he was 500 ft AGL (this is an unexact science using your "eyeometer" the same way you judged he was at 400 AGL) and he didn’t damage anything on the ground, he was operating within the regulations. The helicopter was also within regulations because he also didn’t damage anything on the ground.

The part where you mention the pilot mentioning the 700’ was most likely due to routes and altitudes that were prescribed by the FAA that can be found in the Chart Supplement, Sectional, Terminal, or Flyaway charts. A local operator can also have an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that would regulate how their pilots fly in and out of certain airports.

Hope this helps clarify helicopter operations vs fixed wing. BTW quick hint on how to tell altitudes of other objects around the drone using your camera or FPV. If you have your camera level anything touching the horizon is at your same altitude.

As for the right of way rules, I think 91.115 paragraph (e) applies here. It states; Special circumstances. When aircraft, or an aircraft and a vessel, approach so as to involve risk of collision, each aircraft or vessel shall proceed with careful regard to existing circumstances, including the limitations of the respective craft.

Drones are usually the size of birds and depending on the circumstances the pilot many not be able to see the drone until avoiding a collision may exceed the limitations of the aircraft. Therefore in the eyes of the FAA the drone is responsible to see and avoid other air traffic.

Very well stated. Thanks for taking the time to break it all down and put it to ink (virtually).

Safe Flights :)
 

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