FAA Takes Issue with Stadium Flyovers

Pilots of Experimental airplanes risk losing license.

RV Formation

RV Formation

Remember that record flyover of 49 Van's RVs at last season's Chiefs-Raiders game in Kansas City? The FAA remembers too. In the wake of that sanctioned overflight, some pilots of Experimental-category airplanes are now receiving letters of investigation from the agency for other flights that may have run afoul of regulations.

Formation flights over NFL games, NASCAR races and other major sporting events by Experimental aircraft have become more popular following the government sequestration, which grounded military flight demonstration teams. But without proper approval, such flights can put a pilot's license at risk.

The Experimental Aircraft Association is warning that FAA headquarters officials have expressed concern that stadium overflights by Experimental-category aircraft do not comply with current regulations as well as certain operating limitations. The FAA reinforced these concerns with its Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs), asking FSDO inspectors to ensure pilots of experimental aircraft are aware of the "regulatory implications" of flights over major stadium events.

EAA representatives met with FAA officials last week to discuss the issue and try to come up with ways for the popular flyovers to continue.

"These flights are popular with the public and offer great visibility for aviation," said EAA vice president for safety and advocacy Sean Elliott, according to EAA's website. "We also acknowledge the FAA's position that the regulations do not accommodate such activities in Experimental-category aircraft. We believe there is a solution, through the exemption process, for those formation teams who truly train and operate in a professional manner. We appreciate the FAA's willingness to explore these options."

Elliott said pilots and Experimental-category aircraft owners must exercise "extreme prudence" if they are invited to participate in such overflights, so as to not commit a violation. At the very minimum, Elliott urged owners and operators to contact their local FSDO well in advance for guidance.

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