I was stopped by NYPD for attempting to hang glide in an uncongested area by Midland Beach, Staten Island. They called their Legal Bureau and came back with "Illegal Navigation" and if I was to continue I would be arrested and my hang glider would be seized. I called the NYPD Aviation Unit to ask about the legality of my attempted flight and told me to call back again later since this was an unusual request. When I called them back they generically stated that it's not legal under FAA regulations within the NYC area, but did not refer to any specific law and suggested I go to Long Island or Jersey.

What is meant by a "congested area of a city/town/settlement" in FAR 103?

If it's not illegal, then it's legal. So if I can prove that it's not, then I should be legally good to go.

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    $\begingroup$ You have two points that contradict. If they said that it was not legal under FAA regulations (I assume you mean regulations since the FAA doesn't create laws) then you should ask why and not assume that it is legal! $\endgroup$
    – dalearn
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ Even with documentation, copies of all relevant laws, etc. proving what you are doing is legal, the cops that stop you won't care - they'll simply ticket/arrest you and let the lawyers deal with it. As the saying goes, you can beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride. $\endgroup$
    – ivanivan
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ it's an ultralight, right ? $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ They told you no, but they couldn't point to a law? I guess you could say they... left you hangin'! $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @ivanivan, then they can also risk the lawyers dealing with an unlawful arrest suit. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 2:06

2 Answers 2


There are (at least) two general points to consider. First, hang gliders are ultralights and the regulations in 14 CFR 103 apply to them. 103.17 says:

No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.

If you look at a sectional chart, most of the airspace over NYC is class B, including to the surface in many places:

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In a class B surface area ultralights require ATC's permission to operate; whether or not the area was congested is a separate issue and nothing to do with the airspace class itself.

Second, as a general statement the FAA regulates what happens in the air but not what happens on the ground. States and counties can make their own rules about launching and recovering aircraft, and national parks have their own rules too. In other words, you need to make sure that wherever you fly your hang glider, it's both legal to launch and legal to operate in that airspace.

Now, let's look at Midland Beach, Staten Island specifically. I've marked the approximate location on the chart with a red dot. It's hard to see because the chart is so crowded, but that part of the coast is depicted as a "special conservation area" and there's also a comment that it's part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which is a national park.

The airspace there is class B from 1500ft upwards, meaning that if you stay below that altitude then you're OK from the airspace point of view. It's true that the FAA discourages flight over parks, but it's mostly about noise (not a concern in a hang glider) and there's no actual regulation anyway.

However, it seems likely that you were launching from a national park and that does require permission from whichever authority runs it. I have no idea whether or not that's what the NYPD were talking about.

(My personal suspicion is that the NYPD officers just decided "that can't be legal" and made up something on the spot. But there are still actual regulations that do apply, whether or not the officers were fully informed/trained on them or not. I also don't know why the NYPD would want to enforce FAA regulations, but that's a topic for another site.)

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    $\begingroup$ Good points. I was around Midland Beach, Staten Island which seems to be uncontrolled below 1500. I'll be happy if I even get off the ground. If I took off from the beach, I would have been in violation of NYC Park violation assuming the beach is part of the park. nycgovparks.org/rules/section-1-04 But if I was to take off from an uncongested area mid/lower Staten Island ungoverned by NYC Park Laws, then I would not be in violation of FAA regulations as long as I'm below 500ft. $\endgroup$
    – royjr
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @royjr, For the FAA part, you should just contact them. If they don't have a problem with you, they'll tell you (just like they did with this guy) youtube.com/watch?v=ciioZOhm1Hg&t=608s If the local police is enforcing non-existent laws at the behest of local politically connected residents, that certainly wouldn't be the first time. On our California coast, we also had that problem until our California Coastal Commission nipped it in the bud by imposing its own $11,250 a day fine. theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/02/… $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 3:41


Many areas of NYC are controlled area from the surface (SFC) on up, meaning you need to obtain clearance from the FAA before entering the area, either on the radio, or by a telephone call beforehand to enter the area at a specific time and following a specific flight path. I imagine your hang glider is not radio equipped, thus you would need to be calling for clearance before takeoff.

Look at the chart, drag/pan/zoom in to the NYC area, and see if you were in one of those areas. All the yellow areas should be treated as congested.

  • $\begingroup$ As has been noted in a comment to a deleted answer-- Part 91 doesn't apply to hang gliders. Ultralights are specifically exempted from the entirety of Part 91. So there's no requirement for a "clearance". However, as another answer has noted, FAR 101.17 imposes a requirement for prior authorization. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 12:13

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