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When a pilot feels the need to jettison their external fuel tanks, do they have to wait until they are above a certain area, or can they just drop them wherever they please?

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    $\begingroup$ Not really military, but in the United States I can drop anything I want from my aircraft as long as I take care not to injure people or property. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Mar 9 '17 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about a specific country or jurisdiction, or is it a general question? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 9 '17 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Ron Beyer: But I imagine you could be cited for littering. Theoretically, at least. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 9 '17 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ That's local enforcement, the FAA doesn't care about it at that point, so they don't regulate it :). There are a lot of local flying clubs that have drop contests throughout the year, usually a team of people (pilot/bomber) dropping things like watermelons or oranges at a target. Good old fashion fun if you can find one to watch or participate in. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Mar 9 '17 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife just a general question $\endgroup$ – anonymous Mar 10 '17 at 9:01
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This depends where in the world you are, over civilian US territory military planes chose to operate under the FAA FAR's (although they are not explicitly legally required to), as such its pretty cut and dry

Sec 91.15 Dropping objects.

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

Elsewhere in the world the rules may vary. There may also be rules about dropping tanks over open water due to their being residual fuel in the tanks.

This question covers what happens to them after they are dropped.

This thread would indicate that they are actually not dropped all that often.

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    $\begingroup$ That FAR doesn't apply to military aircraft. The wording is "pilot of a civil aircraft", but 14 CFR 1.1 defines military aircraft as "public aircraft". See this question for more details. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 9 '17 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ The FAR's (unless an exception is applied for) do apply to military aircraft operating in FAA airspace. See this question for details. $\endgroup$ – Dave Mar 9 '17 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ All the answers on that question say (to me) that the military generally follows FAA regulations as a matter of policy, even though legally they don't have to. Military aircraft are explicitly public, not civil. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 9 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Pondlife is correct. Although the US Military tends to follow ATC guidance when flying around in ATC's controlled airspace, they don't have to. They can declare MARSA whenever they want. Nor are they (or any other "public" aircraft) subject to FARs. And, even more "technically", US airspace belongs to the military, and they grant permission to the FAA to control it. At any time (see 9/11) the military can pull back control. So, there is no "exemption" to be "applied" for by the military. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Mar 9 '17 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ Verbiage has been updated to reflect. $\endgroup$ – Dave Mar 9 '17 at 16:51

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