FAR 103 rule violations

by Had Robinson

Unfortunately, there are too many ultralight pilots who do not know or who choose to ignore the rules.  Their activities pose a danger to themselves and to others, to say nothing of their often being a public nuisance making our sport look dangerous and foolish.  These people are NOT our friends and they are the ones who provoke the public and authorities to ban our sport in various places.  Site loss is the most serious problem we ultralight pilots face.

On the other hand, pilots who are members of USPPA, USHPA, EAA, or the USUA encourage pilots to know, understand, and diligently follow the FAA rules for operating their aircrafts.  These organizations need our support!  It is a community effort.

The USPPA and USHPA are the only organizations that have coherent and well established systems of training pilots and certifying them.  So, you feel there are problems with them?  Good for you!  Instead of being nitpicky and self-centered, do what you can to help rather than backbite – a vice not a virtue.  Help improve pilot safety, assist others who fly and may need help, and join the efforts of others who tirelessly, year after year, work to improve our relationships with land owners.

I deal with the Fed in other matters on a regular basis.  Yes, I have the right to be an AH, but what does this accomplish except to make people who can make your life miserable, angry?  They are acting in an unconstitutional manner in your opinion?  Good for you, Mr. Lawyer.  If so, use your money, hire a Constitutional attorney, and spend a million dollars trying to fix it.  I am still appalled at the selfish attitudes among way too many pilots who think they are the only ones who fly.  Thanks to them, we lose site after site every year.  I repeat:  They are NOT our friends.

So much for my rant.  I do get tired of running defense with landowners and the authorities so I, other responsible fellow pilots, and my students will have a future and the privilege of flying in some of the best locations in the U.S.

We should 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, in order of importance.

  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.  If you are a member of the public and some ultralight is annoying (noise, flying low, buzzing people's homes, parks, sporting events, school yards, etc.), that pilot is most likely breaking the rules.  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 will respond to the concerns of others.  It is always best to visit with a pilot and suggest that 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 requires 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 is often 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 his job.

  4. In some states (i.e. Texas but not New Mexico) it is illegal for anyone to operate any aircraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, legal or illegal.  Be sure to check the rules for your state.  If you are a member of USHPA and fly at USHPA insured sites, you must comply with FAA CFR Part 91.17.

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

  6. 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, that you have photographs and video, and that you have had no success in contacting the pilot and/or fixing the problem.  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 usually 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.  But, unfortunately, there are selfish jerks who think it is fun to buzz others and/or trespass.

  7. 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 or anywhere near a school, 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.

  8. 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.  This will take some time and you must be patient.  Once the Federal ball starts rolling, it will not stop.  Pilots have learned this the hard way.  One jerk landed on top of a man's house and damaged one of his vent pipes.  Rather than apologize profusely and take full responsibility, he told the homeowner to F off.  It cost the pilot at least $10,000 in CAB fines.  Good for the homeowner and, hopefully, Mr. Jerk learned his lesson.

    If you need additional help or information, you may also contact us, as well.

Turkey Vulture