FAA can regulate plane’s aerobatics but not noise
It's 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, and a plane is doing aerobatics over the Village Park/Royal Kunia subdivision. The engine noise is the problem. We would like peace in our community and not listen to the roar of a low-flying aircraft. It seems this is the same pilot that does it over and over again in our area. Who is this guy? He flies during the evenings but not every day. Is he in violation of any flying codes? Can the FAA do something about this?
Answer: If the pilot indeed was performing aerobatics, the Federal Aviation Administration can take action.
But as long as the aircraft is flying at least 1,000 feet above the nearest obstacle and is not doing aerobatics or otherwise flying unsafely, it is allowed to fly at any time over your neighborhood.
Basically, noise is not something that is regulated by the FAA.
But aerobatics is.
"Aerobatics is not allowed over a populated area, period," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor, based in Los Angeles, told us.
"If somebody is just flying in circles, that's not necessarily aerobatics," he said.
The FAA regards aerobatics as performing specific kinds of maneuvers, such as barrel rolls and loops. Based on your description, "it's impossible to tell what the pilot was doing," Gregor said.
If you or your neighbors are concerned about a pilot operating an aircraft unsafely or illegally, "they need to document as much as they can," he said.
That means getting a photo or videotape showing the altitude of the aircraft and what it is doing, as well as getting multiple witnesses.
"Document everything," Gregor said. "Present the FAA with hard data, not just saying, 'The guy was flying too low.'"
The most helpful bit of information is to identify the aircraft by somehow getting the tail number as it whizzes by.
Aircraft flying in "uncontrolled" airspace do not have to file a flight plan, so there is not necessarily a record of what planes are flying in your area. Only aircraft in controlled airspace, basically around airports, have to file flight plans, Gregor said.
Pilots have to obey minimum safe-altitude regulations. When flying over populated areas, that means at least 1,000 feet above the closest obstacle, Gregor said.
"If it appears someone is operating unsafely or illegally, we'll absolutely take action," he said. But, "as long as a plane is operating legally, we don't have jurisdiction over noise."
For complaints about unsafe or illegal flying, call the local FAA Flight Standards Office at 837-8300.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation told us previously that it will take complaints about aircraft. Call (888) 697-7813. But it generally just compiles and categorizes the complaints and forwards them to the FAA.
See "Kokua Line," Aug. 15, 2004, for a broader review of what the FAA allows and does not allow.
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