Pilot and YouTuber Trent Palmer announced on Thursday that the FAA has suspended his certificate for 60 days. According to Palmer, the issue dates back to Nov. 24, 2019, when he made an inspection pass over a private airstrip on a friend’s property in an area described as “sparsely populated” after having been invited to land there by the friend. Palmer says he opted to move on without landing due to the conditions of the strip.
Video footage of the low pass was captured by a neighbor’s security camera and given to the FAA, after which the agency contacted Palmer. In addition to 14 CFR 91.13 prohibiting careless and reckless operation of an aircraft, the FAA holds that he violated 14 CFR 91.119(a) and (c), which cover minimum safe altitudes, including allowing for an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property if a power unit fails and not operating an aircraft closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure except when necessary for takeoff or landing. The issue went to a hearing and, according to Palmer, the administrative law judge (ALJ) ruling on the case stated in his ruling that since Palmer didn’t land the aircraft, the maneuver wasn’t necessary for takeoff or landing and, since there wasn’t a windsock or any sort of runway lights or runway markers, the airstrip wasn’t an acceptable landing site.
“The problem here is the precedents or the case law that is established by the decision,” Palmer said in the video. “The problem with that is that by the judge or ALJ stating that because I didn’t land it wasn’t a necessary landing procedure, now that would basically mean that any time we want to land in a new place that would require inspection passes to assess the feasibility of that spot, if there were any chance that you were within 500 feet of a vehicle, vessel, person, or structure—knowingly or unknowingly—you would need to go land there for it to not be a violation, meaning there would be external pressures making us change our aeronautical decision making.”
Palmer maintains that he had the ability to conduct an emergency landing throughout the entire flight. He is appealing the decision and is able to fly pending the results of that appeal. He also noted that the FAA initially requested a 120-day suspension.