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FAR 103 rule violations

by Had Robinson

Unfortunately, there are too many ultralight pilots who do not know or ignore the FAA rules.  Their activities may pose a danger to themselves and to others, to say nothing of their being a public nuisance.  On the other hand, pilots who are members of the USPPA, USHPA, EAA, or the USUA encourage pilots to know and diligently follow the FAA rules for operating their aircraft.  We all want to help improve both the safety and the reputation of ultralights with the public.

What if you observe an ultralight pilot operating his aircraft in an unsafe or irresponsible manner?  Here is what to do:

1. Get acquainted with the Rules for ultralights.  They are short and simple, just two pages, and they should be read before doing anything.  Briefly, if an ultralight pilot appears to be operating his aircraft in an unsafe manner or is creating a nuisance, he probably is.  With the widespread and growing use of drones, people's privacy is becoming an important issue.  Other FAA rules address this, no matter what type of aircraft is being operated.

2. There are a small number of pilots who simply do not know the rules, are not properly trained, but are otherwise good citizens and may respond to the concerns of others.  It is always best to visit with a pilot and suggest what he is doing is hazardous to others and their property or that he is being a nuisance.  Hopefully, he will apologize and be cooperative.  Do not assume that the pilot will be rude or unresponsive, but if he is, go to the next step.

3. There needs to be evidence of the alleged violation.  It must include the time, date, and the identity of the pilot, if possible.  Taking photographs and videos is the best way.  They should include the direction traveling relative to some identifiable object on the ground and the aircraft's altitude e.g. a rooftop should be in the background.  Unfortunately, you may have to follow the aircraft in a vehicle to identity the pilot.  To do this safely may require another person to drive while you keep your eye on the aircraft.  Most ultralights rarely travel more than a few miles from their operation areas so this may be easy.  If possible, photograph the pilot's vehicle so that you have the license plate plainly in view.  This will greatly assist law enforcement or the FAA inspector to do their jobs.

Though not mentioned in the FAR 103 rules, it is illegal for anyone to operate any aircraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, legal or illegal.

If there are any USPPA pilots in the area, they will generally help.  Contact the USPPA and they may be able to help find a member pilot nearby who can work with you and identify the other pilot.

3. If the pilot is trespassing on private property or using a public street or highway to land or launch from, contact local law enforcement.  Explain to them what happened and that you have photographs and video.  Please be aware that safe and responsible pilots often use public areas, like a road or park, to operate from but they do it in such a way as to protect the safety and property of others without being a noise nuisance.  Most cities and towns have ordinances that require all aircraft to use an airport.  However, law enforcement often ignores violation of these ordinances if an ultralight pilot is not being a nuisance to anyone and operating his aircraft safely and responsibly.  Generally, all good ultralight pilots get "up, out, and away" from others.

4. If the pilot is buzzing people or livestock, dropping objects, taking photographs of bathers in a hot tub and the like, flying above anyone, or flying low over a home, they are in violation of the rules.  You will need to first do the things mentioned in step #3 above.  Again, if possible, contact the pilot and tell him your concerns.  If he is rude or unresponsive, go to the next step.

5. The FAA has regional operations centers that help anyone who observes an accident or aircraft operating in an unsafe or illegal manner.  Identify the center that services the region where you observed the alleged violation.  The contact page for your region will have a 24 x 7 telephone number that is explicitly for reporting aviation incidences and accidents.  The operators will help you file a report.  If you need additional help or information, you may also contact us, as well.