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Winging It! With Dr. Paul


The FAA is really cracking down on airspace and safety violators lately. As a warning to all Sunday fliers, I thought I'd share with you the complete text of an enforcement letter recently received by one of our number, a Mr. John Gillespie Magee, Jr.:

"The subject document recently brought to our attention raises several serious questions as to your understanding of responsible, legal flight under FAA regulations. The following are typical examples of logged comments which cause concern.

  1. The statement 'I have slipped the surly bonds of earth' would indicate that you had no radio contact with ATC at the time of the subject flight. At the same time, your log contains such statements as 'Sunward I've climbed. . . high in the sunlit silence. . . up, up, the long delirious blue. . . topped the windswept heights. . .' etc. All of these, Mr. Magee, indicate that you were at or above 18000 feet MSL, wherein begins the Positive Control Area. FAR 91.97 clearly states, 'No person may operate an aircraft within a positive control area. . . unless that aircraft is. . . operated at a specific flight level assigned by ATC; equipped with [i] a coded radar beacon transponder. . . [ii] a radio providing direct pilot/controller communication. . . [iii] operated under an IFR flight plan.' We feel, Mr. Magee, that by your own written admission, you were, therefore, in violation of FAR 91.97.

  2. You log the fact that you 'joined the tumbling mirth of sun split clouds.' This can only be interpreted by us as an admission of entry into clouds. As we have no record of your filing an IFR flight plan, we can only conclude that you were operating under Visual Flight Rules at the time. FAR 91.105 covers cloud clearance minimums under VFR, the very least of which is 'clear of clouds.' We must therefore hold you in violation of FAR 91.105.

  3. Your flight log admits to doing 'a hundred things you have not dreamed of.' Quite frankly, Mr. Magee, we find this very alarming. The only explanation we can think of for your statement is that you may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your flight. This is clearly in violation of FAR 91.11.

  4. You record that you 'wheeled and soared and swung.' As we have already concluded that you were operating in positive control airspace, this would indicate a violation of FAR 91.71: No person may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight within ...

  5. Further, your claim to have 'put out my hand, and touched the face of God' suggests several other serious violations of Federal regulations. We have searched the files for any record of a near-miss or mid-air collision report, but have failed to find same. Lacking these, by your own admission, you are held in violation of FAR 91.9: No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

Frankly, Mr. Magee, while your Federal Aviation Administration endeavors to be cooperative and reasonable in interpreting the regulations designed to promote air safety, your flagrant disregard of rules and regulations poses a serious threat to airspace safety. Flying, Mr. Magee, is a serious business, and it must be approached seriously.

We have no alternative but to order the revocation of your license, and request that you surrender it within ten (10) working days to a representative of your local Flight Standards District Office."

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