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Is flying an ultralight in a careless or reckless manner illegal?

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you below 83 feet, on your own property, and is no one else present? $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Sep 10, 2023 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ Is this referencing a specific event or occurrence? $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2023 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Mazura what is the significance of 83 feet? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Sep 11, 2023 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket no, just a general question $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Sep 11, 2023 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision related to ownership of airspace above private property $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Sep 11, 2023 at 19:07

2 Answers 2

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Your specific question: Is flying an ultralight in a careless or reckless manner illegal?

(Assuming that the "Ultralight" in question qualifies as an "Ultralight Vehicle" and is therefore subject to 14 CFR Part 103)


14 CFR Part 103.9- Hazardous Operations addresses this for "Ultralight Vehicles:"

(a) No person may operate any ultralight vehicle in a manner that creates a hazard to other persons or property.

(b) No person may allow an object to be dropped from an ultralight vehicle if such action creates a hazard to other persons or property.

So, unlike operations subject to FAA pilot and aircraft certification standards and regulations under 14 CFR Part 91, (specifically 14 CFR Part 91.13), which uses the wording "careless or reckless," 14 CFR Part 103.9 uses the word "hazard," which I believe would be applied in a similar manner by the FAA.

(emphasis is mine)

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  • $\begingroup$ So, not illegal if you're above an open field and there's no other people around? You are allowed to be a danger to yourself? $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2023 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, basically. The FAA's mandate is not to protect individuals from the consequences of their actions, it's to protect the public and all the other people those actions might hurt. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2023 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ While "other" clearly rules out the operator endangering themselves, "property" might be interpreted to include the ultralight vehicle itself, no? $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2023 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @SpehroPefhany I think it means other property not including the ultralight. If the wording was, for example, "property of another" (like FAR 91.13 says) then I would agree that it could include the ultralight if the person flying it did not own it. $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Sep 10, 2023 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ Your own question (related to Part 91) has also interesting answers: Can a person be operating an aircraft in a "Careless" and "Reckless" manner at the same time? Or are these two different standards? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Sep 11, 2023 at 0:27
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Doing anything carelessly or recklessly (i.e. in a manner that puts the lives of others at unnecessary risk) is illegal. Flying an ultralight is no exception.

§ 91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

(b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

Careless and reckless doesn't mean what many people seem to think it means, so here are the definitions given in Wikipedia. Put simply, if you were being careful enough to ensure you were not doing dumb things near other people, then you are not actually being careless, are you?

Recklessness: willingly taking an initial action that a reasonable person would know will likely lead to the actus reus being committed, e.g. drinking alcohol and then driving as a result of automation due to intoxication.

Carelessness (also known as negligence): failing to exercise due diligence to prevent the actus reus that caused the harm from occurring – rarely used in criminal law, often encountered in regulatory offenses (e.g. careless driving) or in the civil law tort of negligence – these are known as strict liability offenses.

Source for both the above quotes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recklessness_(law)

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    $\begingroup$ "Doing anything carelessly or recklessly (i.e. in a manner that puts the lives of others at unnecessary risk) is illegal." -- give some thought to this sentence: "I've been really careless about keeping up with oil changes on my car, and now the motor is all worn out." Later you mention "the actus reus that caused the harm". If we are talking about doing anything carelessly, it is not obvious that the potential harm will always involve some other person or some other person's property. So your "i.e." clause appears to be a false equivalency. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2023 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ Random Wikipedia word definitions are not a useful answer to a question of law. $\endgroup$
    – nobody
    Sep 9, 2023 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ It's reasonable to say that a 5th grade student was careless doing her homework, but it's not reasonable to say that this rises to the level of any form of legal offense. The statements are over broad and as such aren't helpful in addressing the very specific question asked. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Sep 9, 2023 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ @quietflyer - What thought is needed? you've been careless with the oil changes in your car and you've been careless with oil changes on a commercial aircraft. One puts the lives of others at risk, one doesn't. Lack of care is not a crime. Endangering others is. $\endgroup$
    – Paul Smith
    Sep 9, 2023 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Upvoting. His clear point was that "Flying an ultralight is no exception" for making actions legal or illegal. "Doing anything carelessly or recklessly (i.e. in a manner that puts the lives of others at unnecessary risk) is illegal," seems hard to misconstrue. If an action is illegal in normal activity, then it is while you're flying. "Doing anything carelessly or recklessly in a manner that puts the lives of others at unnecessary risk" as a simple example. Changing your oil generally isn't illegal, so doesn't fall under the purview of this answer. $\endgroup$
    – BWhite
    Sep 11, 2023 at 3:44

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