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Getting Out of the Way of Low-flying Aircraft

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by RoyKron3, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. RoyKron3

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    I've had to dodge a bird to two with my P2, but today I had to get out of the way of a low-flying aircraft. I don't think there was any real danger of us colliding; there was good separation for our relative speeds. But it was a bit unnerving.

    I was flying at a commercial fishing port/boat launch that also holds a farmers' market (like today) on occasion. Several weeks ago I asked for and received permission from the port director to fly. The site is about 20 miles from the closest airport. I wanted to get some photos and video of fishermen selling shrimp straight off their boats. At no time did I exceed 150 feet, and I was over water the entire time except for take-off and landing.

    It's Saturday. There's people buying shrimp off the boats. There's people under a 5,000 square foot, open-air shelter selling various goods. There's live music. And there's engine noise as people are launching their boats.

    Then I noticed a different engine noise coming from behind me. What I saw next was what looked like an American Champ flying over the launch and farmers' market at between 300 to 400 feet. It circled, flew off into the distance, came back and circled again at that same altitude, and then flew off again to be seen no more.

    As soon as I saw the plane, I dropped my altitude to below the height of the boats' trawl arms. I figured if the Champ collided with me, that would be the least of his worries because he would have already clipped one of the boats. But I thought manned aircraft, even small civilian aircraft, are supposed to maintain an altitude of no less than 1,000 feet as soon as they can climb to 1,000 feet. He was well below that altitude.

    He obviously was out for a weekend flight and wanted to do a fly-by of the farmers' market - maybe shooting some photos as he circled.

    I have no problem giving way to manned aircraft. And if had it been necessary, I would have cut power to my motors and fallen from the sky. But small plane pilots need to fly by the rules, too.

    Although there are idiots flying UAVs around Love Field and JFK, I would wager the first quadcopter/manned aircraft collision will be at an event like I was at today. It attracts UAV pilots who want some cool photos, as well as small plane pilots who want cool low-altitude photos and/or video. We'll both be sharing the same airspace and neither will be able to get out of the other's way.
     

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  2. IflyinWY

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    Location:
    Where the deer and the antelope play
    The distance is 500 feet from any person, vessel, vehicle or structure, If I remember correctly.

    Cruizing the harbor in a Champ sounds like a bunch of fun for a Saturday in June. Hope you're not going to call the cops or broadcast the N-Number here. ;)

    Nice pic, by the way.
     
  3. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
    Staff Member

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    500ft is the minimum separation that aircraft are supposed to maintain. Regardless, you did the right thing by flying below other more visible objects the plane would naturally avoid.
     
    IflyinWY likes this.
  4. Monte55

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    The other day I was driving home and within a half mile of my house. All of a sudden a strange looking plane flies over me at about 75 feet agl. I thought wth. I thought it looked like an ag plane. It's zipping back and forth and doing some really steep bank turns. Probably around 60 degrees or so. Turns out it was an ag plane dropping nitrogen on some fields. There were a few planes doing this. We have been so wet lately the tractors can't get into the muddy fields. It was on the news later because so many people were calling the sheriff. Looked really cool. A few years back a R22 heli landed in a neighbor's driveway two houses down. He had to come straight down because he was surrounded by trees. Cool but not legal. So being away from an airport doesn't mean you won't encounter low flying aircraft.. Ya gotta keep your eyes open. .
     
  5. RoyKron3

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    I'm sure the guy in the Champ was having fun. I would have been, too. It was simply a bit of an "oh, crap" moment for me. I've flown at the port before and pushed the Phantom up to 400 feet. If I had been flying that high yesterday, there could have been a problem.

    No cops. No reporting. I didn't get his tail number. I was more concerned about keeping out of his way.

    I'm also aware crop dusters can be an issue. Oddly enough, I've been in some state government meetings where using UAVs to dust crops has been discussed from a pilot safety standpoint. If I remember correctly, on average six duster pilots die a year in crashes. Use a UAV and there's no risk to human life - especially in those tight fields.

    Some of the places I fly are pretty remote; you can only get there by boat. That said, an oil and gas company helicopter sometimes can pop up at a relatively low altitude. I'm sure they're not expecting anything else in the air out in the middle of the marsh. But I've never had one of them as close to me as the Champ was.
     
  6. emoney609

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    I live in Wildwood, NJ we have banner planes, mostly really old looking single engine planes joy riding along the beach and town, and helicopter rides. All fly between 150' and 300', I'm gonna be really nervous flying here in the summer time. I'm not gonna do it, cause I don't wanna hear it, but it would be safer if I was above 400'.