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Thread: Part 103 "congested" & Part 91?

  1. #1

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    Part 103 "congested" & Part 91?

    Everyone has daydreamed about flying over traffic during rush hour. A couple months ago, I started looking into how that could be possible.

    I was very excited when I discovered ultralight aviation, and that I could actually afford a Mosquito XEL helicopter in a couple years! (I'm in college)
    Through I would mostly use it recreationally, I would like to be able to use it for transportation too when I could. But I'm not sure how the FAA works or the specifics of what I can and cannot do.

    For one,
    103.15 Operations over congested areas.
    No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.

    On another thread, someone wrote that "congested" is about 10 houses clustered together or a school. Do different districts have their own definition of what is "congested"? I found distances that one must be from a congested area in a fixed-wing aircraft, but there seems to be no limit for helicopters. "Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums [...] if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface." So, how close is too close? Is 103.15 a moot point so long as I prevent violation of 91.13 Careless or reckless operation.?

    And what kind of fines could I expect if I was reported?

    Particularly, how wise is it to land on water retention ponds or vacant lots? Is it ok to cross two-lane or four-lane bridges or highways (at higher altitudes)? What if I got the permission of the owner to land on their roof or property, but it's near a parking lot/residential area?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Dana's Avatar
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    This subject comes up pretty regularly, and a search of the forums here and at homebuiltairplanes.com will turn up lots of discussion about it. Bottom line is a "congested area" is anything the FAA says it is, which pretty much means whatever you're flying over when you annoy somebody. Even though there's no altitude limit (you can't fly over a congested area at any altitude) you're much less likely to annoy somebody and get reported if you're at 500' vs. 5000'.

    Part 91, including 91.13, does not apply-- at all-- to ultralights. However 103 has:

    103.9 Hazardous operations.

    (a) No person may operate any ultralight vehicle in a manner that creates a hazard to other persons or property.

    which is almost the same thing.

    FAA fines run to $1500 per violation.

    Where you can land depends on how much room there is, what's around it, whether the landowner allows it, and local zoning. Near residential areas... see above about annoying people. And ultralights are the kind of thing that to a non pilot is cool the first time, boring the second time, and annoying thereafter.

    Realistically, ultralights just aren't a viable method of routine transportation. You can go places in them, but the low speed and weather dependence limit them to primarily fun flying.

    Dana

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post

    Realistically, ultralights just aren't a viable method of routine transportation. You can go places in them, but the low speed and weather dependence limit them to primarily fun flying.

    Dana
    Very True. I've often told hangar visitors my Legal Eagle is a totally useless aircraft. By that I mean it is too uncomfortable, slow, limited on fuel, and light for transportation. But it serves its intended purpose very nicely, as in watching a gorgeous sunset over Wheeler Lake this evening.

    Resist the urge to force an ultralight vehicle into a role for which it wasn't intended. Enjoy it as an inexpensive way to experience simple aviation without the regulatory restrictions of heavier aircraft.
    Last edited by Sam Buchanan; 07-29-2014 at 09:33 PM.
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  4. #4

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    You go for it, Elyse!

    Look up your town on vfrmap.com to see what class of airspace you have. Then, look on the satellite view to see if you can get from A to B without flying directly over homes, schools, and such.

    I wouldn't worry about crossing highways and bridges, but can't imagine anyone letting you land on their roof. All those vacant lots belong to someone. You'd need permission and a large area to land. And check local laws--my county doesn't allow ultralights to take off or land in certain areas.

    But flying where it is safe should be your main concern. If the engine quit unexpectedly, could you auto-rotate to an empty field?

  5. #5

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    To add some "fuel to the fire" (so to speak), a VERY unofficial definition of congested is what is colored yellow on the sectional maps (you can view your local one at www.skyvector.com).

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    Thanks y'all!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elyse View Post
    For one,
    103.15 Operations over congested areas.
    No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.

    On another thread, someone wrote that "congested" is about 10 houses clustered together or a school. Do different districts have their own definition of what is "congested"?
    "Congested area" has never been formally defined by the FAA. In an enforcement case, it is evaluated and defined on a case-by-case basis. So any "definition" cited in another case was only applicable to that case. It may or more likely, may not be applied equally in other cases.

    I would use common sense. If at all possible, avoid flying over people/structures on the ground unless absolutely necessary, and then keep it as minimal as possible. In most of the 'congested area' enforcement actions, the pilot is hardly innocent and the locals will report 'they saw it coming'

  8. #8
    Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Finney View Post
    To add some "fuel to the fire" (so to speak), a VERY unofficial definition of congested is what is colored yellow on the sectional maps (you can view your local one at www.skyvector.com).
    The yellow areas on the charts indicate lit up areas of towns for night navigation. Most likely they'd be considered "congested", but so would lots of other areas that aren't yellow on the chart.

  9. #9

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    i saw a guy flying what i think was a r22 out of a +rural king+ [ farm supply ] parking lot on a hot day in a congested area. surprised me. , he had to pull straight up .
    kinda seems like a dicey thing landing one of those overgrown weed wackers in a wal-mart equivalent parking lot. but i rekon it was a rich rancher .

    one could build experimental and get an +N+ number, but that would require a rotary wing endorsement ,
    i really dont know but i have the idea that rotary wing is a wee bit more tricky than a fixed wing ..and one will want to log some good dual time
    are those +really+ flying part 103
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  10. #10

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    Helicopters, because of their capabilities, are given some more leeway in where they land and takeoff in the FARs. But Experimental category helicopters are likely to have restrictions as part of their operating limitations that take away some of the flexibility. Go find a Rotorway owner and ask to see what the operating limitations say.

    I have to say that I know three individuals who have assembled E-AB helicopters. I regret that i have to report that all eventually crashed their machines, fortunately without serious injuries. But all of that time and $$ purchased less fun and utility than hoped for. Food for thought.

    I will mention that I have been involved in a few discussions with FAA FSDO staff about "congested areas" on behalf of members of the aerobatic community. FAA is now using Google Earth images as part of the discussion. You will get the argument that a cluster of houses (say 10) visible on Google Earth or a school, which typically has a neighborhood around it, is a "congested area".

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    N78PS
    Last edited by WLIU; 08-01-2014 at 07:57 AM.

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