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EAA Seeks Path Forward on Stadium Overflights

  • Team RV flies at AirVenture 2012
    Team RV flies at AirVenture 2012

November 20, 2014 - This week, EAA representatives met with FAA officials to explore possibilities to continue popular stadium overflights in experimental category aircraft, including those prior to NFL games, NASCAR races, and other major public events.

Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety, and EAA board member Jack Harrington – who was also representing the EAA Warbirds of America – were joined by John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS), for discussions with top officials at the FAA’s AFS-800 General Aviation and Commercial Division. The meeting focused on the increasing popularity of individual and formation flights by experimental aircraft, both in the amateur-built and exhibition categories, for pregame overflights. Those activities became more numerous after federal budget sequestration grounded military overflights in 2013.

FAA headquarters officials had expressed concern that stadium overflights by experimental category aircraft does not comply with current regulations and some operating limitations. The FAA reinforced these concerns with its Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) and asked FSDO inspectors to ensure pilots of experimental aircraft are aware of the regulatory implications of flights over most stadium events. Some pilots who recently performed stadium overflights have also received FAA letters of investigation regarding the rules in question.

“These flights are popular with the public and offer great visibility for aviation,” Elliott said. “We also acknowledge 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 reminded pilots and experimental category aircraft owners that extreme prudence must be used if they are invited to participate in such overflights, so as to not commit a violation. At the very minimum, Elliott urges owners and operators to contact their local FSDO well in advance for proper guidance.

“ICAS and EAA agree that safety is absolutely the top priority,” Cudahy said. “It seems clear there is a path to preserving these popular public displays while maintaining the highest safety standards.”

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