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A flight instructor i met with recently said that flying ultralight over national parks is a crime. The law section of the powered paragliders bible has nothing on parks.

One would think that commercial vehicles wouldn't be needing to plan around parks above a certain altitude. But ultralight vehicles may have different regulations.

After further reading into the book, it says "almost all state and federal parks prohibit launching aircraft and ultralights except at airports." Nothing about flying though

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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of What is the legal altitude to fly through Yosemite Valley (US)? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Aug 10 '17 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ The answer in the Yosemite question is broad, @mins, and I do think it answers this one. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Aug 10 '17 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD I don't think it's a dupe. This is asking about FAR 103 regulation aircraft. the other one seems to be commercial. $\endgroup$
    – tuskiomi
    Aug 10 '17 at 13:16
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There are no regulations that prohibit operating an ultralight (or any other aircraft) over a national park. We have a similar question about Yosemite and the same general answer would apply to any other national park.

For ultralights specifically, the regulations are in 14 CFR 103 which has only a few very simple restrictions on where ultralights can operate. 103.15 says you can't operate over a congested area or a crowd of people and other restrictions are the obvious ones: don't fly near airports without ATC approval, don't enter restricted airspace, and do follow NOTAMs.

That means that - as with the Yosemite question above - it comes down to whether the national park in question is a congested area or not. Realistically, most parks where you might want to fly an ultralight probably aren't, so it's very likely that you can fly over them at any altitude you like: part 91 doesn't apply to ultralights, so the minimum altitudes mentioned in the Yosemite question wouldn't matter.

There's also AC 91-36 to consider, which requests pilots to stay voluntarily above 2000' AGL. I don't know whether it's meant to include ultralights (it's a part 91 AC) but it doesn't really matter because the general guidance is definitely applicable to anything that flies:

The intent of the 2,000 feet AGL recommendation is to reduce potential interference with wildlife and complaints of noise disturbances caused by low flying aircraft over noise-sensitive areas

As you already mentioned, there might be restrictions on taking off and landing in a park or other public areas (that's an issue for seaplanes, helicopters and bush pilots too), but those would be non-FAA regulations.

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  • $\begingroup$ Cool! I know it isn't respectful to buzz around at low altitudes, and with all parks being different, I do plan on asking. That in mind, The law needs to be cleared first. $\endgroup$
    – tuskiomi
    Aug 10 '17 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ How did a pilot measures 2000m AGL? Normally we measured ASL, as it normally done by any measurements. $\endgroup$ Dec 29 '18 at 3:59
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The use of mechanized items, which UAS, ultralights and other aircraft are considered are prohibited from Congressionally Designated Wilderness areas.

That designation does not appear on a sectional chart, but can be queried from the supervisor for the park or forest. As far as I know, overflights, particularly those by manned aircraft are not prohibited, but launch, recovery or operation from the wilderness area is prohibited.

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Pilot regulations are under part 91. Violations are under part 61. You might be flying under part 103 but the answer is yes and ultralight vehicle is not a certified aircraft but the answer is yes you are still required to follow the federal minimum prescribes under CFR the codified federal rules. Just because your meeting the requirements of part 103 does not mean those are the only requirements. An ultra-light is considered a vehicle. But an ultra-light is still an aircraft. There are different types of aircrafts. Don't get mistaken and and up foot dragging down the highway. Because I promise you I've seen in 20 years I've seen plenty guys end up with some images of over $1,000 and having their equipment taken because they don't gain the concept.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE. I'm sorry, but this does not seem to answer the question "what regulations are there?" It mentions that some regulations are in place, but does not provide any detail that was not available in the other answers. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Mar 13 '18 at 6:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico I'd say it's more info than a comment should have, even if incomplete, it adds to the knowledgebase. $\endgroup$
    – tuskiomi
    Mar 13 '18 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ Operations are under part 91, and pilots and aircrew are generally under 61. It is not accurate to say that violations are under part 61. In fact many violations are of Part 91. Now specific to the question, designated wilderness areas and the use of mechanized devices within, is not in 14CFR. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Mar 18 '18 at 20:27
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The first thing I want to say here is that you don't want to be the reason that a law is written. The FAA tries very hard to not need to enforce any types of rules on it users. It comes though in all of their failure to drive NTSB suggested changes, and covers how they deal with 'Experimental' aircraft. They let Darwin take its course as long as you are not injuring others or starting fires.

There is a notice in the lower left corner of the print Sectional Map(Detroit). I am aware these are all digital now, but the reference version maintains the legal statute and there is important information there that the online service should be reproducing. This states in part...

Regulations regarding flights over charted National Park Service areas, US Fish and Wildlife service areas, Bureau of Land Management areas and US Forest Service Areas

"The landing of aircraft is prohibited on the land or waters administrated by the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service (hereafter referred to as Agency/Agencies) without authorization from the respective agency."

There are a few logical exceptions listed, and it continues (emphasis added) ...

"All aircraft are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2000 feet above the surface of the following: Game Ranges Wildlife Ranges, Conservation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Wilderness Areas and Primitive Areas administered by the Agencies."

It makes reference to the Advisory Circular below and talks about it being illegal for the most part to drop people or objects from your aircraft in those areas.

  • Advisory Circular published in 2004 AC91-36D VISUAL FLIGHT RULES (VFR) FLIGHT NEAR NOISE-SENSITIVE AREAS which says that the FAA gets noise complaints from non-aviation users of the areas defined above. They don't like needing to followup with pilots and suggest in no uncertain terms fly no lower than 2000 feet AGL over a crater rim or highest ground point unless you need to do so to maintain VFR, and maybe consider planning a different route depending on the size and location of the Agency's Facility.

  • FAA Order JO 7400.2 Appendix 9 specifically talks about Noise abatement over Federally Managed Lands.

You should also check the State you are flying in because I would bet that the State Facilities have similar rules set into their language. From a safety stand point these areas do not offer many safe emergency landing areas. I would suggest overflight planning using internet based imaging. (Most of what Google has is not satellite imagery).

This is an item that doesn't specifically apply, but keeps in the spirit of all of the above:

Frankly this looks like it makes DOA one of the primary reasons I want to get a helicopter pilots certificate, at lease for my state. To reach into deep back country areas for hiking and personal photography. I do know that camping isn't allowed in many of those areas near me. I figured being able to fly in and primitive camp in the areas that do, would be a good way to have a low impact. The only time you touch the ground is when you get in.

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