I have thought about this for some time, but the sight of a few aircraft blatantly transiting below 500' made me think about it again.
Why do people insist on getting as low as they can when transit flying, the 500' rule is there for a reason (unless taking off, landing or conducting exempted aerial work - I know I would not be aware of this activity, or is it NOTAM'ed?) why just choose to chin it off?
I am a military pilot, when we low fly we transit at 80-120' AGL and 50' MSC, it can be hard work. When we don't, you get above 500' and stay there. Ideally well above if weather is no factor, space under the aircraft is always beneficial!
Between 150-500' AGL is fast jet country, and the grey area where you don't really have much time to deal with a serious incident. When low flying @ 100'AGL, accept that you would be in the shit and plan, act, fly accordingly.
Why would you want to fanny around @ 350' ?
Much less fly down the Ladybower reservoir in a 206 below the line of the valley (seen that once). Nowhere to go, unless you have a bit of luck, wind and consummate skill on board!
We operate near a local scenic site, next to a busy clutch of FJ bases, near and around the site, FJ aircraft transit at low level. On a sunny day, it is not unusual to find RW and FW aircraft easily below 500' around the site, probably heads in and goofing!
Accident waiting to happen, and increasingly common these days.
Why? poor education, inaccurate instruments (most of the examples I am talking about are WELL below 500') or flagrant rule breaking.
Er; bravado, foolishness, excitement, boredom, showing off, stupidity, fun, because they can, lack of imagination, too much imagination, willy-waving, knowing they are unlikely to be caught, I could go on.
But not, I think, inaccurate instruments. After all, what instruments are involved in the low bit of low flying apart from Mk1 eyeball and a brain? Mmm, perhaps that's the problem...
'Well above 500' is probably sensible for modern types unless you need to go lower for a reason.
Apart from the fun factor, it's possible some of the desire to go lower is a hangover from older days, eg. when I learnt on Hueys you didn't want to spend too long up high in case of a loss of transmission oil pressure, in which case you'd be stuffed if you didn't get it on the ground ASAP, and also flying for range was a case of go low and pull about 80% of available torque (about 40 psi out of an available 50 rings a bell unless the brain cells are going faster than I thought) while 'beeping' down the rpm a bit to the apparently most efficient setting, 6400 N2. So going lower made sense in many cases.
To answer your question, flagrant rule breaking is probably high on the list unless they're filming, crop spraying or otherwise engaged in legal low flying.
Increasingly common? Dunno about that, it's all too easy to be caught on someone's iphone video, put up on the web and prosecuted over here, so I'd say people are a bit more cautious about doing silly stuff these days.
ralphmalph in IACO its 500' agl as well as all the rest of rule 5.
The UK doesn't have the 500' agl but has a 500' bubble on "any person, vessel, vehicle or structure"
You can fly down Lochs at 2" agl if you like and be perfectly legal.
Most of the FW light aircraft below 500ft will be doing PFL training. The CAA have for years tryed to stop instructors doing this but alot of us still do because if you knock it off before 500ft agl you miss a large part of the difficult bit and duty of care and all that good stuff.
Then there is trial flights where the punter wants a photo so 500ft agl over thier houses.
But to be honest alot of instructors now have been trained abroad so don't have that much clue about mil low level flying.
The fact that the MIL AIP has been made a revenue generator means most don't have access to the required information to be able to not do stuff in silly places. Doesn't help either.
You still have to be 500' from the dam at the end of the reservoir though...
But let's not forget;
- many AOC operators have permanent exemptions reducing the 500' to 200' for the purpose of filming & photography with some obtaining permissions for even less separation than that.
- HEMS & Police have special permissions in force (no rule 5 when it's a 'HEMS' flight).
- power line patrols have exemptions to be very low;
- both fixed wing and helicopters carry out pipeline patrols circa 500ft AGL and above;
So yes, there are man civilian aircraft operating throughout the UK low level EVERY day.
0-500ft AGL is not just for military aircraft.
Flying low isn't dangerous - pilot attitude is dangerous!
I take the point that you "could" fly down a loch @ 2' AGL legally, why?
Poor demonstration of a point.
The point raised that you would have to climb up to aviod the dam at the end of the reservior is very well presented. What about the tracks and roads along either side of the lake/loch? Do people really spend this much time making a detailed recce of the area they are going to low fly in?, or do they just do it?
Flying low is not dangerous, clearly many operators do it in a controlled manner - its illegal if you are not correctly authorised -
Location: Liverpool based Geordie, so calm down, calm down kidda!!
Ralph, whilst I agree with your comments, you need some clarification. Illegal if not properly authorised????? You show you are military. In the civilian world (generally), we don't have authorisation. You have a licence, you should know the rules, you go to work, sign the tech log and go flying all day. What is an authorisation?
Location: On the Rump of Pendle Hill Lancashire UK
Ralph has a point, my location is on the rump of Pendle hill in Lancashire, about 4 mins flying time for a FJ from Warton , many people fly around my location Planks as well as Helis, and are more often than not below 500 ft from me looking up at them, my static ground level is 620ft nominal above sea level, so if GA flyers are staying with sea level point of entry/take off then they, the alleged low flyers will be at around an indicated height of 8/9/1000 ft, possible their attention to rising ground is not accounted for, and their attention to height detail is is also lost.
By the same token for Ralph to understand is one of my past flights was in the Settle/Malham area of North Yorkshire, where I was on a long let down to land at a pals hill farm about 4 nm from Malham cove, I would have been at about 500ft above actual ground level when I was disected by two Tornados one low , one high with their wings back getting on a bit, the low A/c being in German AF markings the top man was in Brit markings, apart from staying where I was as soon as I saw this hapening, and getting a wave from the back seat German, I then carried on to land after they departed(very rapidly),.. what would Ralph say to that, was that me in the wrong or just one of those things that could have gone wrong. I once attended a safety evening at Southport with the CAA, the RAF were also there, the RAF reps assured us GA flyers that they always saw us and knew where we were in the air, after my experience I think that speech was for public consumption ..not an actual thing that happens!!
Remembering the surveying B206 at Lancaster/Kirkby Lonsdale about 9years ago
1. Survival: In all aspects of military aviation, and especially in todays Op theaters, someone is eventually going to try and kill you. Thats what you need to plan on, then anything less is a bonus.
Ask across the range of fleets from Lybia to Afghanistan, being low or very high reduces your exposure to low level engagement types. This is a pr oven fact and is deep seated in our Tactics. High level flying is clearly not as demanding and not as controversial.
When the time comes to be shot at, given the option I would rather be in the engagement area for 5 seconds@ 100' or 10 seconds at 300' (SWAG)
The US forces have learned the hard way that pattern setting and flight "in the threat band" gets you killed. Not my cup of tea!
2. It is a perishable skill. As a singleton of any disciple, LF is demanding and if you don't practice, the ground will always win!
Day singleton, Night singleton, Day formation, Night formation, Night no lights formation, it all becomes increasingly complex as the layers get added.
This is without any tactical scenario being played. Once the tactical scenario comes into play, the LF is no more than a basic skill, aircrew would be then concentrating on watching their playmate for a jet tipping in, people on the flight path with weapons, monitoring RWR indications and reacting to a threat when it manifests itself.
Why in busy airspace?
1. Firstly the classes of airspace in the UK protect against this, we have A-G airspace, ATZ, MATZ, Avoidance Areas, Flow arrows etc. Believe me my eyes are on stalks when we fly, and things are so much more quieter these days with no aircraft in the UK! Low flying is very tightly controlled and monitored, both by the Low Flying Booking Cell and the RAF Police using mobile radar systems.
2. Having congested airspace makes for realistic and demanding training. Planning a 200NM ingress @ 100' to get a time on target and then egress becomes quite difficult in the UK (Just like a battlefield, people own different areas of the sky, straying into that could get you shot down!) So we stay away from airfields where we can, if we fly nearby, we should talk to the relevant agency.
3. Money means that around each base, LF has to be easily accessible. This a daily utilized skill set. Taxpayers would not countenance us deploying to Scotland and using valuable transit hours to keep a core skill polished.
4. I can only speak for RW, but when as a formation we transit and spot GAT, you are called as a threat. You will be observed and we will move accordingly, its good practice, there are many eyes looking out practicing spotting the little bastard with a gun.
I would not for a second say that there is anything wrong with encountering LF aircraft when landing or taking off. A good lookout is the crux of solid Airmanship. Thats just one of those things I suppose, we all share very busy airspace.
At least here in the UK we have very good ATC services, not so in other parts of the world where population density is much less, there it is a maxim of "Big Sky, small plane.......keep your eyes out!"
An authorisation is a third party sanity check to ensure that the flight is planned correctly, has taken into account weather, airspace,crew fatigue,qualification, currency on skill sets etc. Clearly people can break an Authorisation after they lift, but it ensures that there is a sensible eye cast over the plan. In an Op context it can prevent a crew trying to prosecute a task when actually not necessary in the big picture (trying to lift in Fog to drop a passenger to a location, when they could either go be road, or be moved later) It separates the Tactical picture from the Strategic.
My main reasons for being +500 ft AGL (most of the time) include safety (more options if the donkey stops), compliance Rule 5 (at all times), reduced noise pollution (less complaints about GA.
I fly low (below 1,000 ft AGL) on occasions that I am required to (eg one section of London Heliroutes), I have to to remain VMC and legal (airspace / Rule 5), to land & take-off (often off-airfield) and sometimes because I can and it is fun (down the centre of the Great Glen, sections are quite legal at low height).
"Justifying" all GA flight below 500 ft on safety grounds is not possible. Much GA flight is not at all necessary, and as there is inherent danger at any height then I could not justify any of my flying at all.
Your last post suggests to me that (a) having other low-level traffic is actually useful (though this little B**d doesn't have a gun) (b) that you brief for the flight, which would include the very obvious point that other aircraft may be using that space, they will be below 250knots, you will be difficult for them to see (I think that's the point of your paint echeme) so you have the duty to avoid, they may not be carrying a transponder (not everyone does, though mine is Mode S) and given what they are made of they might not have a big radar signature so you will need a very good look-out (which you confirm you have).
There are many commercial operations that will have people operating in that airspace. There are numerous landing sites (unmarked) - particularly for RW (picking up from a large garden, for example?). There is noting illegal or requiring authorisation to be below 500 ft AGL, so long as you are 500ft clear of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure; if landing / taking off then not even that.
You can't have everything. If you want to use general airspace to make things more realistic, then you are not going to be alone. And incidently, I am pretty sure that RAF uses my home as a practice bomb target and I think that's just absolutely fine. However, the helicopter pad East of the house is there for a reason.
Oh! and the times I have had (for example, my last one) "Pop-up traffic, left to right, 2 miles, Level, high speed" messages from ATC I have been slightly +1,000 ft AGL (a nice place for RW) so I don't personally feel any safer from potential conflict with military if I agree to your request.
Good post Ralph, Jayteeto was a little bit naughty in his ... he knows exactly what an auth is (Having worked his way up from the engineering ranks to Puma QHI) - but it did extract that explanation for those who are unfamiliar.
I was expecting a bite about Droopystop's "RAF" comment, given your stated location as Wallop!
Location: Liverpool based Geordie, so calm down, calm down kidda!!
Correct. I know all about authorisation and responsibility, I was supervisor for a military fatal crash a few years ago. I still have nightmares about my 'interview'. What I was saying is that most civilians do not break an auth to low fly, because authorisation does not exist. I flew police and fly Air Ambo and have NEVER been authorised. I am just expected to fly legally. That said, I fly 152s at a Shropshire base, they do have supervision, weird really. If you own your own aircraft, you can go years without seeing 'authority'.