[balloon-makers] Ammunition Wanted (USA Builders)

Bob LeDoux bobledoux at proaxis.com
Tue Feb 26 18:46:45 CST 2002

>Bob -
>As I understand it, a normal provision in the operating limitations of
>experimental - homebuilt balloons deals with congested airspace.  The
>wording may be along the lines of "all flight operations shall be conducted
>to avoid flights in congested airspace and over densely populated ground,
>etc., etc."  In your experience, is that a paragraph you can get removed?
>That would be a really useful thing to not have in the operating
>Also, the San Antonio FSDO no longer does airworthiness inspections on
>homebuilts.  That has all been outsourced to DAR's.  Phillip had a good, but
>expensive, experience last summer with a DAR.
>Good Floating!
>Greg Winker

This is what I wrote in Balloon Builders Journal #28:

Homebuilt Balloons and Urban Areas

If the operating limitations on your amateur-built balloon keep you out of
urban rallies, read the following.

Flight operations of amateur-built aircraft over densely populated areas is
specifically prohibited under FAR 91.319 (c) unless otherwise approved by
special flight limitations for the aircraft.

The pertinent sections of FAR 319 say, "Unless otherwise authorized by the
Administrator in special operating limitations, no person may operate an
aircraft that has an experimental certificate over a densely populated area
or in a congested airway.  The administrator may issue special operating
limitations for particular aircraft to permit takeoffs and landings to be
conducted over a densely populated area or in a congested airway in
accordance with terms and conditions specified in the authorization in the
interest of safety in air commerce."

There have been broad variations within local FAA jurisdictions as to the
interpretation of this regulation.  Some local FAA offices have turned a
blind eye to this matter and make no issue of aircraft operating over
congested areas.  Many amateur built aircraft are equipped for and
maintained for instrument flight conditions and operations in congested

Most amateur-built aircraft have an operating limitation which states,
"Except for takeoffs and landings this aircraft may not be operated over
densely populated areas or in congested airways."

A few FAA jurisdictions have taken an even tighter interpretation,
prohibiting all operations over congested areas or in congested airspace.

The lack of consistent interpretation recently came to a head because of an
FAA interpretation concerning the Orange County John Wayne airport in the
Los Angeles basin.  Local FAA officials took a strict interpretation of the
regulation and informed local experimental operators at that airport that
they might be in violation.  Operators were told that because the airport
was surrounded by populated areas, flight operations from the airport would
be in violation of taking place over congested airspace.

The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) was contacted by local members
and began working on this issue both at a local and national level.  The
intent was to generate a national policy which avoided the patchwork of
interpretations currently being applied.  As a result of these discussions
a clarification has been distributed to all local FAA offices.

As the EAA notes:

FAA headquarters has released an internal bulletin to local FAA offices
which clarifies the issue of experimental amateur-built flight over
congested areas.  The bulletin states that, once flight testing is
completed and the aircraft meets the requirement of FAR part 91.319(b), a
special operating limitation may be issued to experimental aircraft to
permit them to operate over densely populated areas, both enroute and
during takeoffs and landings, and to operate within congested airways of
the National Airspace System.

Further, the guidance specifies that "aircraft that have successfully
completed Phase I flight testing to meet the requirements of Section
91.319(B), and were issued special operations limitations authorizing
takeoffs and landings over densely population areas prior to the date of
this bulletin, may continue to operate over densely populated areas under
the authority of the original authorization.  Those operators need not
reapply to the FSDO, MIDO or MISO for additional authorizations.

The FAA Headquarters' bulletin reiterates the agency's policy statement on
this issue, established more than 25 years ago.  That policy allows
overflights by amateur-built aircraft once certain "flight testing" is
completed.  Since 1972, that guideline has helped establish a high standard
of safety for amateur-built aircraft, which no make up more than 20% of the
nation's single-engine general aviation fleet.

As a result of this clarification, homebuilt balloon operators who have
operating limitations prohibiting flights over congested areas may be able
to get these limitations revised.

Note that the language of the transmittal does not require the local FAA
office to grant this more relaxed operating limitation.  But it makes it
clear that the local office is free to do so.

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