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EAA Keeping Close Eye on Trent Palmer FAA Enforcement Case

May 05, 2022 –EAA is closely monitoring an ongoing FAA enforcement case involving social media personality Trent Palmer. While the case has been quietly underway since 2019, Palmer disclosed details of the case in a widely circulated YouTube video published late last week.

The case involves an “inspection pass” that Palmer says he undertook over a friend’s property, to determine if his modified backcountry Kitfox was capable of landing on a small strip normally used for model flying. He decided that it was not safe to land at the strip and abandoned the landing attempt. According to Palmer’s account, a neighbor of the friend documented the flight on a surveillance camera and reported the incident to the FAA, which charged Palmer with violating FARs 91.13, prohibiting careless and reckless operation, and 91.119(a) and (c), which specify minimum safe altitudes. 91.119 does not apply to operations necessary for takeoff and landing.

Palmer reports that the NTSB administrative law judge (ALJ) who heard the case determined that the “takeoff and landing” clause of FAR 91.119 did not apply to this operation because he did not land. Furthermore, the lack of features typical to an airport, such as lights and a windsock, purportedly led the ALJ to conclude that the property was not an applicable landing area.

Palmer intends to appeal and is concerned that if the ALJ’s interpretation of 91.119 is allowed to stand, it would set a dangerous and illogical precedent that a pilot must actually land — and land at a designated airport — in order to be protected by the applicability clause of the rule. EAA agrees, and we look forward to learning more specifics of FAA’s allegations and the judge’s ruling. Going around must always be an option of any approach, as must abandoning a landing attempt altogether and proceeding to an alternate airport. Additionally, “off-field” operations where inspection passes are common procedure before landing are routine for backcountry pilots, ultralights, light-sport, and other types of GA flying.

The FAA has been cracking down on low-altitude operations where there is truly no intent to land, i.e. buzzing, but bonafide landing attempts must be protected. EAA will watch this case closely and if necessary address the regulatory implications for all of GA with FAA headquarters staff, in coordination with our partner associations.

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