FSDO Defends Actions

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Van Nuys FSDO Manager Richard Swanson said his office is merely spelling out a policy that has been directed by the FAA administrator. Swanson said all offices were asked to review their policies with respect to the operating limitations that come with flying an experimental aircraft. He said the limitations vary depending on aircraft type and use, but, in general, experimental aircraft are not supposed to fly over congested areas and the four California airports are all in heavily populated areas with busy airspace. But he noted that doesn't necessarily mean that all experimentals are banned from using the airports because many homebuilts have an exception in their operating limitations that allows them to fly over developed areas and in congested airspace for landing and takeoff. "Each pilot has to be aware of the operating limitations of the aircraft," he said. Swanson said the difference between a homebuilt and a certified aircraft is that a certified plane is theoretically a "known entity" that has been through airworthiness processes and is supposed to be maintained to those standards. Experimental aircraft don't have that paper trail and that's why the limitations are in place. "It's really a certification issue," he said. "Our task, after all, is to protect the general public." He also noted that it would be impossible for his office to monitor transient traffic and determine which experimentals are allowed to use the four airports. He said it's up to the aircraft owners to make sure they operate within the rules and all it takes is a ramp check to determine if they are being followed. The devil's in the paperwork.