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Per FAR part 103.15

No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.

However something got me thinking about this. If the paramotor pilot(s) were to legally enter an airshow, if they signed a waiver stating that they are responsible for any injury caused by them, or if the occupants signed a waiver saying that they are risking their life being at the airshow, could the paramotor pilots use that a "reason" to bypass FAR part 103.15?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! If you don't get a good answer here, you might try asking on law.SE instead. The FAA can waive some of their own regulations, but you seem to be asking if an individual can waive them personally, and that seems more like a legal question than an aviation one to me. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Nov 10 '21 at 19:39
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The only ways around a FAR are:

  1. Exceptions explicitly written into that FAR,
  2. General exceptions like emergencies, or
  3. A specific waiver from the FAA itself.

The former two do not apply here.

The latter may or may not be difficult to get, depending on which rule, why you want to break it, and what alternate measures you propose taking that would mitigate the risk that the rule was intended to protect against.

Airshows by their nature get lots of waivers, and you’ll need to work with the organizer to get your specific waiver request included in the giant pile they’ll be submitting. Assuming they are interested in what you propose to do at their show, of course.

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    $\begingroup$ My experience is limited, but typically the airshow organizer obtains a blanket waiver for all participants. It is specific in what you can and cannot do. I don't remember signing anything as an individual. $\endgroup$ Nov 11 '21 at 1:59
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14 CFR 103.5:

No person may conduct operations that require a deviation from this part except under a written waiver issued by the Administrator.

The pilot can sign anything they want - and the airshow organizers might indeed ask them to sign other waivers - but they would still need the FAA to give them a written exception to 103.15. (See this related question about part 91.)

If you're asking a 'meta question' about whether an individual can opt out of a government regulation by explicitly accepting the consequences, law.SE would be a better place to ask. Although I think it's fairly obvious that the answer is "no", otherwise regulations would be completely meaningless.

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There is no need to sign a document that states one accepts responsibility for any injuries caused by them: the pilot in command is, by default, responsible for any damages he/she causes by operating the aircraft.

As for the second part, the visitors/occupants at the airshow signing a waiver, I'm sceptical as to how binding this would be. The signee might not be able to sue the organizers or the pilot for any damages, but whatever the contract might hold, the pilot would still have been in violation of FAR 103.15, and the organizers would definitely be under criminal investigation for knowingly organizing an event that (partially) consisted of actions that were prohibited by FAR 103.15

Now: one might ask how the heck can these events be organized? Well, as Pondlife pointed out, there is a possibility of acquiring a permit, but why not simply arrange flightpaths such that the pilots need not fly over "any open air assembly of persons". It's really not that hard.

I must admit I'm not a FAR specialist, and to really give a correct, complete and concise answer would require knowing a whole lot more that just two paragraphs of the regulations. There may be exceptions when dug deeper.

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Do you know of any federal rule you can "bypass" by saying you agree to accept the consequences?

If you want to go speeding in your Ferrari, can you sign a paper that says you'll pay for any injuries and property damage? Do you think the police will then say, "Oh, look! He signed a piece of paper. We cannot issue a speeding ticket or arrest him now, because his signature is on a form!"

Can you "bypass" drunk driving rules if you're rich enough to pay for damage you cause? OF COURSE NOT.

The "ultra-lights over congested areas" rules are about safety, not "financial cost" or "legal liability". Neither a pilot, nor someone on the ground can agree to bypass a safety rule.

NO, just plain "no".
You cannot "opt-out" of Laws and Regulations.

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That’s a little vague from a legal perspective.

For this scenario, the ‘waiver’ you suggest carries no legal weight as most local, county, and state jurisdictions defer air law over to the FAA and federal regulations under Title 14 of the CFR.

To begin with, an ultralight pilot acting as PIC of said aircraft is, by definition, directly responsible for, and the final authority on, the operation of that aircraft.

In order to fly said aircraft over an open venue of persons, you would need an FAA issued waiver of §103.15 plus additional waivers for other regulations, depending on the kinds of display in question eg aerobatics, etc.

Now you may still be held liable for property damage, injury or death with an accident if the root cause is determined to be pilot recklessness, incapacity or neglect in violation of §103.9. Circumstances also would dictate weather a local or federal prosecutor would seek to pursue criminal charges against you. A determined §103.9 or §91.13 violation would make you vulnerable to a civil tort, particularly wrongful death if your actions resulted in loss of life.

Companies promoting airshows may require performers to sign legal documents associated with her performances where the performer agrees that the promoter assumes no liability by the performer should an accident occur. I’m not totally sure on the details of that, but that’s not uncommon.

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