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Thread: low altitude waiver?

  1. #1
    Gary Reeves's Avatar
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    low altitude waiver?

    In a previous thread when challenged about flyiing at low altitude for several miles " for fuel" a member answered law enforcement stating that he had a low altitude waiver.

    That caught my attention for a question or two but I did not wish to mix this with the other thread.

    questions. if you have a low altitude waiver - is it for a specific cause or does it let you exercise this waiver all the time and under any circumstance.

    What is and how do you get a 'low altitude waiver"?

    GR

  2. #2
    Clay Hammond's Avatar
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    Pipeline

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    figure out a very good reason, then call your local FSDO and tell them.

    They will tell you what you can and can not do, it is their discretion.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

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    Little_Cub's Avatar
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    I like low/slow as much as anyone and dislike regulation more than most, however.. with the ability to take it to the surface over non populated areas and TO/Landings.. with the number of towers out there, why would you wish to be lower than part 91 suggests?

    (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
    (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
    (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

    I have lived by the rule.. if there was a unplanned situation with a person, vehicle etc.. I was attempting to land and if I didn't land it must have been a choice based on safety. Only the pilot knows the intention. In Alaska we probably have a few more things in our favor with roads (I hope) still being available as landing areas.

    Only personal opinion.. don't kill the messenger!

  5. #5
    SJ's Avatar
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    Little_cub, I don't disagree at all and have always believed that except in the case of fire, altitude is your friend. Having said that, I like to be down low as much as the next guy.

    One thing I will point out, which we have discussed before, is that in at least one court case, a road (even though it was gravel) was deemed a congested area and the pilot that was doing a mock emergency landing to it was dinged for getting below 500'. So one must be careful about what is congested, and what is not.

    Do banner towers (tow-wers?) get a waiver?

    sj
    "Often Mistaken, but Never in Doubt"
    ------------------------------------------

  6. #6
    WhiskeyMike's Avatar
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    Banner tow waivers allow the towing of objects other than gliders, but never waive the minimum altitude restrictions. If you use a Restricted category aircraft, you also need a waver to operate it over congested areas. To clarify a bit, the restricted category must specify that the airworthiness is for the special purpose of aerial advertising. hence if you have an ag plane certified restricted for "aerial application/crop control" you may not use that aircraft for aerial advertising. You must apply for and receive a special airworthiness certificate for the specific purpose of aerial advertising. Also contrary to popular belief, you may not modify a restricted category airplane without the usual paperwork. On the airworthiness it specifically states that any modification to the aircraft will invalidate the airworthiness. In the old days, you had more leeway, but any certificate issued in recent memory is more restrictive.

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    a little stoking here.... is congested defined?

  8. #8
    Clay Hammond's Avatar
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    I've always considered it inside the urban areas on the sectional (inside the yellow city spaces)

  9. #9
    fancypants's Avatar
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    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/...10/Simmons.pdf

    The FAA has not defined the term "congested area" by regulation and does not use a mathematical formula to determine the boundaries of a congested area. Instead, the FAA applies a case-by-case analysis to determine compliance with § 91.1191 to balance the interests of the pilot's operation and the need to protect persons and property on the ground, which has been the purpose of the minimum safe altitudes rule in §91.119 since its inception.
    ...
    While there is no precise definition of a "congested area," official U.S. government aeronautical charts and NOTAMs provide general guidance for developing a proposed route that complies with §91.119. However, aeronautical charts would not be expected to reflect all required local information. Pilots may obtain such information in a briefing from the local Flight Standards District Office. This information along with the pilot's prior knowledge of the area and information the pilot obtains from other sources may require an adjustment to the planned flight path before or during flight. Ultimately, it is the pilot's responsibility to maintain the minimum safe altitudes required by §91.119.
    Wonder what a "local information briefing" from a FSDO would consist of. I think if you're ever in a situation where you have to argue that you were not over a congested area, you're probably going to lose.
    Last edited by fancypants; 12-28-2012 at 02:49 PM. Reason: formatting

  10. #10
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fancypants View Post
    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/...10/Simmons.pdf



    Wonder what a "local information briefing" from a FSDO would consist of. I think if you're ever in a situation where you have to argue that you were not over a congested area, you're probably going to lose.
    That is exactly correct. Also, here's the wording from the regulation: "Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons". I know of at least one successful enforcement action against a pilot who flew over a boy scout camp, with a group of scouts standing near the boat dock. Pilot admitted he was at something less than 1000 feet, and he lost, all the way to the Board. The scout camp had something like three or four buildings.

    Frankly, I don't think most pilots read that regulation carefully enough.

    As to low level waivers: As is typical in the FAA, it is totally up to the local FSDO whether or not they'll issue a low level waiver. Some do, some don't. The FAA in general does not like low level waivers. We had a national waiver (being feds) for many years, but every time the waiver was re-issued, it would have a new "but only if" clause. Eventually, we let it drop since it was essentially useless.

    If you have a legitimate reason to fly low, as mentioned earlier, pipeline patrol, etc. the FAA FSDO MAY issue a waiver. Read it carefully, though, because there may well be caveats written into it that don't exactly let you operate low EVERYwhere.

    MTV

  11. #11
    bushmaster's Avatar
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    I operate under a low altitude waiver and agree read it . You are not allowed to do the low alt except when performing the task that you were approved for i.e I do wildlife patrol and or research that does not mean you can buzz your buddies etc because you have a waiver. Doing an eagle survey one day someone called in because we were low over or near their house and upset the eagles. The FAA called me for an explaination I told them I had a state bioligists with me and that we we where over the water and he said ok and also new my altitude even though I was in a fairly remote area. so be aware!

  12. #12
    Randy's Avatar
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    Would a Part 137 pilot need a low level waiver..or is it an implied part of the business?
    Randy

  13. #13
    Rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy View Post
    Would a Part 137 pilot need a low level waiver..or is it an implied part of the business?
    Randy

    neither... it is spelled out in part 137;

    ...
    Sec. 137.49

    Operations over other than congested areas.

    Notwithstanding Part 91 of this chapter, during the actual dispensing operation, including approaches, departures, and turnarounds reasonably necessary for the operation, an aircraft may be operated over other than congested areas below 500 feet above the surface and closer than 500 feet to persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures, if the operations are conducted without creating a hazard to persons or property on the surface.

    [Amdt. 137-3, 33 FR 9601, July 2, 1968]

    ....snip, snip;
    Sec. 137.51 — Operation over congested areas: General.

    (a) Notwithstanding part 91 of this chapter, an aircraft may be operated over a congested area at altitudes required for the proper accomplishment of the agricultural aircraft operation if the operation is conducted—(1) With the maximum safety to persons and property on the surface, consistent with the operation; and
    (2) In accordance with the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section.
    (b) No person may operate an aircraft over a congested area except in accordance with the requirements of this paragraph.
    (1) Prior written approval must be obtained from the appropriate official or governing body of the political subdivision over which the operations are conducted.
    (2) Notice of the intended operation must be given to the public by some effective means, such as daily newspapers, radio, television, or door-to-door notice.
    (3) A plan for each complete operation must be submitted to, and approved by appropriate personnel of the FAA Flight Standards District Office having jurisdiction over the area where the operation is to be conducted. The plan must include consideration of obstructions to flight; the emergency landing capabilities of the aircraft to be used; and any necessary coordination with air traffic control.
    (4) Single engine aircraft must be operated as follows:
    (i) Except for helicopters, no person may take off a loaded aircraft, or make a turnaround over a congested area.
    (ii) No person may operate an aircraft over a congested area below the altitudes prescribed in part 91 of this chapter except during the actual dispensing operation, including the approaches and departures necessary for that operation.
    (iii) No person may operate an aircraft over a congested area during the actual dispensing operation, including the approaches and departures for that operation, unless it is operated in a pattern and at such an altitude that the aircraft can land, in an emergency, without endangering persons or property on the surface.

  14. #14
    Randy's Avatar
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    Thanks Rob,
    I never was sure that I needed a low level waiver back in the day when I used to fly ag...but always wondered.

  15. #15
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bushmaster View Post
    I operate under a low altitude waiver and agree read it . You are not allowed to do the low alt except when performing the task that you were approved for i.e I do wildlife patrol and or research that does not mean you can buzz your buddies etc because you have a waiver. Doing an eagle survey one day someone called in because we were low over or near their house and upset the eagles. The FAA called me for an explaination I told them I had a state bioligists with me and that we we where over the water and he said ok and also new my altitude even though I was in a fairly remote area. so be aware!
    So you must be the Cub on Whip amphibs that flew over me just above mast height late in the summer. You came from Deer Isle over the Jerico Bay end of Eggemoggin Reach then up Blue Hill Bay.
    N1PA

  16. #16
    bushmaster's Avatar
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    I am on EDO floats but we usually use a C172 on wheels for fuel reasons and that we carry 2 observers. So no it was not me but I do fly that area.and many others.

  17. #17
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    I did get the N number and looked it up. I have now forgotten who it was, but he did live in a town near Bangor. As I recall it was a dark color, maybe blue?
    N1PA

  18. #18
    bushmaster's Avatar
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    There are a couple of them around

  19. #19
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    RAY, If you ever see John Craig, give him a hello from me. He lives in Glenburn.
    N1PA

  20. #20
    mvivion's Avatar
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    And, to illustrate just how serious the FAA takes this stuff, the local sprayer who does mosquito control over local towns was told he needed a twin to fly over congested areas while in the restricted category (ie: with booms, tank attached). He operates a C337 with spray equipment and just acquired a Navajo for the same purpose getting to more distant towns.

    Im always amused when a UND type complains about a sprayer making right traffic....yes they are permitted to do that as well.

    if you're thinking you like to fly low and building, around here Air Tractor yellow would be a good color choice.

    MTV

  21. #21

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    I once stopped at a grass strip out east and was surprised to see several Cubs in military markings. Asked a local if it was a "club" thing and was told they do it so they can fly low and people don't turn them in because they think it's some military plane.

  22. #22
    bushmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    RAY, If you ever see John Craig, give him a hello from me. He lives in Glenburn.
    I see him once in awhile and will tell him hi for you he's a real good guy and I knew his dad really well all good people.

  23. #23
    S2D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post

    Im always amused when a UND type complains about a sprayer making right traffic....yes they are permitted to do that as well.



    MTV
    Only if they have permission of the airport manager
    Also nothing illegal about a right turn to final as long as final is your entry into the pattern
    (ie) don't announce right base to rwy xx, announce entering final to rwy xx
    I may be wrong but that probably won't stop me from arguing about it.

  24. #24
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bushmaster View Post
    I see him once in awhile and will tell him hi for you he's a real good guy and I knew his dad really well all good people.
    I met them both when his dad was running the seaplane base on the river in Brewer a couple of years ago.
    N1PA

  25. #25
    bushmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    I met them both when his dad was running the seaplane base on the river in Brewer a couple of years ago.
    Yeah now your telling your age. That was along time ago. I had a supercub parted there in the mid 70s and a mini twister came up river and wrecked all the planes except mine -go figure

  26. #26
    bushmaster's Avatar
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    That place had a lot of history. One of John Craig's pilots -a neighbor to us and good friend Frank Andrews just die a few days ago.

  27. #27
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by S2D View Post
    Only if they have permission of the airport manager
    Also nothing illegal about a right turn to final as long as final is your entry into the pattern
    (ie) don't announce right base to rwy xx, announce entering final to rwy xx
    Nope, read the regulation. It specifically says while on approach to land, all TURNS must be to the left unless otherwise specified.

    there is recent enforcement history where the FAA cited a guy for making a right turn onto final some three miles from the runway. And, yes it was upheld on appeal. Go figure.

    But you ARE correct about one thing...don't broadcast to the world that you are violating a reg.

    MTV

  28. #28
    S2D's Avatar
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    So that means a right turn onto downwind is now illegal. Bet that gets broke a lot.
    Is a right base with a tight left 360 to final legal ?
    with all do respect, that regulation is a bunch of crap.!!
    It is a he!! of a lot safer to enter downwind on the side you are coming from than to go across the airport and enter upwind so all turns are to the left.

    Where does the approach start? As soon as you start letting down from altitude or when you enter the pattern ?
    Last edited by S2D; 12-30-2012 at 12:02 PM.
    I may be wrong but that probably won't stop me from arguing about it.

  29. #29
    fancypants's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    Nope, read the regulation. It specifically says while on approach to land, all TURNS must be to the left unless otherwise specified.

    there is recent enforcement history where the FAA cited a guy for making a right turn onto final some three miles from the runway. And, yes it was upheld on appeal. Go figure.

    But you ARE correct about one thing...don't broadcast to the world that you are violating a reg.

    MTV
    I see that in the AIM, but not in any FARs. Is the AIM to be taken as regulation and enforced as such?

    I know they can always nail you with "careless or reckless operation" whenever they want, but I'm curious to know if they've set some precedent by taking an enforcement action based on what's in the AIM.

  30. #30
    S2D's Avatar
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    Sec. 91.126

    Operating on or in the vicinity of an airport in Class G airspace.


    (a) General. Unless otherwise authorized or required, each person operating an aircraft on or in the vicinity of an airport in a Class G airspace area must comply with the requirements of this section.
    (b) Direction of turns. When approaching to land at an airport without an operating control tower in Class G airspace--
    (1) Each pilot of an airplane must make all turns of that airplane to the left unless the airport displays approved light signals or visual markings indicating that turns should be made to the right, in which case the pilot must make all turns to the right
    I may be wrong but that probably won't stop me from arguing about it.

  31. #31
    fancypants's Avatar
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    Well there you go. Thanks. I wonder if the recommended 45 degree pattern entry (right turn onto downwind) is covered under "otherwise authorized or required". Or if the "approach to land" begins after established in the pattern. Clear as mud. I guess I'll just keep flying the way I want to fly and hope nobody gets pissed off to the point I have to hire a lawyer to sort this stuff out.

  32. #32
    cpthazard's Avatar
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    This is all very enlightening and I highly recommend each of you abides by the letter of the Law....ahem..on the other hand telling a bunch of Cub Pilots to stay at 500 feet above a fence line or a telephone pole is like trying to tell your teenage driver to obey the speed limit....good reasons for both, but us being us...might happen, might not. That being said remember ....FAR 45.22 3b IS YOUR FRIEND, (google it) for you lucky souls flying airplanes made within the last 30 years then keep an eye out for those airplane haters with powerful optics. NASA forms are another bureaucratic invention that can help you fly another day. I personally wish people would mind their own business and quit worrying about how far off the ground I am. I don't intentionally buzz people but sometimes they just show up where you least expect them, when that happens the safest thing to do is go right at them so they can't get a sideways view of the N umber. Keep in mind I live in the sticks, if I was surrounded by cities and farms and private ground I might sing a different tune. Be safe my friends and love your low flying hours, they are the ones you'll remember thirty years from now!

  33. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    Nope, read the regulation. It specifically says while on approach to land, all TURNS must be to the left unless otherwise specified.

    there is recent enforcement history where the FAA cited a guy for making a right turn onto final some three miles from the runway. And, yes it was upheld on appeal. Go figure.

    But you ARE correct about one thing...don't broadcast to the world that you are violating a reg.

    MTV
    Would have been a much better argument if the turn was made greater than three miles and higher than 1000' above airport elevation...... logic would make it a straight-in approach, which is legal. Of course, logic and the FAA are often in extreme opposite.

  34. #34
    Seaworthy's Avatar
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    Is the low altitude waiver peculiar to the pilot or aircraft? I fly a "public use" aircraft (fireplane) and have on many occasions flown at 500-800 AGL over congested areas in the vicinity of a fire. Do I require a low altitude waiver. I was told that public use aircraft are exempt--like police, the fire bombers etc out west.
    Marine Corps Aviation since 1966

  35. #35
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Tom, I think, that in your case, that any questions would be answered when folks see the 4 foot tall letters "FIRE PATROL" on the bottom of the wings. It's the airplane operator that gets the waver, not the pilot as I understand it.
    N1PA

  36. #36
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    Not trying to jab a stick in anything.. but curious..
    What method are 'they' using to determine the (possible) low flying altitude of the occasional aircraft that may be 800' instead of 1000' agl? I sometimes have a hard time knowing from the inside. It's gotta be a difficult call when the aircraft passed at 40-80mph and the guy on the ground is left with a lingering memory of a fly-by in the blue, let alone the brain strain of the algebra when not directly overhead.

    Is it more likely the aircraft using full power to climb and a high angle turn while coming back for more that causes ground-bound issues?
    Last edited by Little_Cub; 12-30-2012 at 04:27 PM.

  37. #37
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seaworthy View Post
    Is the low altitude waiver peculiar to the pilot or aircraft? I fly a "public use" aircraft (fireplane) and have on many occasions flown at 500-800 AGL over congested areas in the vicinity of a fire. Do I require a low altitude waiver. I was told that public use aircraft are exempt--like police, the fire bombers etc out west.
    Public aircraft are NOT exempt from that regulation. That's why we had waivers. Now if you was to operate under FAR 137......after all, you're dropping

    trust me, piss off the wrong person and that "public aircraft" thing won't get you very far. And by the way, ALL DOT regs apply as well, like hazmat....talk about a nightmare.

    MTV

  38. #38
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little_Cub View Post
    Not trying to jab a stick in anything.. but curious..
    What method are 'they' using to determine the (possible) low flying altitude of the occasional aircraft that may be 800' instead of 1000' agl? I sometimes have a hard time knowing from the inside. It's gotta be a difficult call when the aircraft passed at 40-80mph and the guy on the ground is left with a lingering memory of a fly-by in the blue, let alone the brain strain of the algebra when not directly overhead.

    Is it more likely the aircraft using full power to climb and a high angle turn while coming back for more that causes ground-bound issues?
    in the cases I've read, most times the pilot, not understanding the reg, admitted their altitude. Like....FAA guy: "So how high we're you when you flew over that Boy Scout camp?" Pilot (thinking 500 feet from persons, property, etc): I was at 700 feet when I flew over there"

    case closed.

    i read one or two where an FAA Inspector saw a pilot descend below treetop level, and that's a slam dunk.

    If anyone asks that kind of question, make sure you know the "correct" answer before you respond. Better yet, try not to fly close to people, and the old saw "Don't do anything dumb" helps.

    MTV

  39. #39
    Little_Cub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    in the cases I've read, most times the pilot, not understanding the reg, admitted their altitude. Like....FAA guy: "So how high we're you when you flew over that Boy Scout camp?" Pilot (thinking 500 feet from persons, property, etc): I was at 700 feet when I flew over there"
    case closed.
    i read one or two where an FAA Inspector saw a pilot descend below treetop level, and that's a slam dunk.

    If anyone asks that kind of question, make sure you know the "correct" answer before you respond. Better yet, try not to fly close to people, and the old saw "Don't do anything dumb" helps.
    MTV
    Agreed.. "Don't do anything dumb"
    The pilot in your example would need a clear definition of "sparsely populated" before passing overhead.. Ask.com says.. "means very few human inhabitants as compared to the area or region they are living." Room for interpretation on the part of the inspector. Does a camp of four lone buildings and 50 kids qualify as sparse?
    (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

    Just looks like the only way to be safe if called on a single pass move is to believe you were >1000' or in the process of landing.. not sure about trusting anothers interpretation. I knew there was a reason for AOPA legal!

  40. #40
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Again, I think most pilots who've been violated on this probably convicted themselves by their initial answer to a question, which may have seemed benign. I sure wouldn't have thought a small camp on a remote lake to be a "congested area of a city town or settlement".

    I hate the notion of having to consult an attorney before answering an FAA Inspector's questions, but......might be the best tack, at least in some cases.

    Most people just want to "clear things up" and get on with life. That CAN be a mistake.

    MTV

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