Low Pass Question


When, IF EVER, and in what airspace, is a low pass legal?
The FARs state aerobatics may not be performed in A, B, C, D, or E airspace, or below 1500 AGL.
If I was out in the middle of the desert 100 miles away from anybody or any property, would it be legal then? (Nevermind that nobody would see me out there…this is about law, not about people seeing it).

What about just merely flying below the 500 foot mark?

Do not infer from this post that I intend to do the above mentioned things… I was just reading the FARs and this question came up. I’ve seen many many videos on YouTube of low passes.


roadmaster.com/truck_school_SaltLake.asp :laughing:


Please see below post…


I know right where that truck driving school is. It is a few miles south of the south end of the runways at KSLC.

I assume you are trying to tell me to not fly because you assume I am asking this question because I am going to do low passes. If that is the case ** please do me a big favor and RE READ this part**:

…There is a line in Top Gun about a truck driving school. Is that what you were referring to? …If so, I totally missed that until it just dawned on me.


Yes. sorry if I offended you.


No worries…Entirely my fault for not recognizing the reference quickly :blush:
I overreacted a bit too…I took the time to write that I didn’t intend to do low passes and I thought you were telling me to stop flying lol…

In any case, does anybody have answers to those questions?



Check out item C.

Perfectly legal to fly below 500 feet in what you describe.

Just don’t get within 500 foot of a person, building, vessel or vehicle. In otherwords don’t buzz within inches a person videoing your antics :smiley:


Interesting how this topic came up and how I just got this in an email today from a subscription to Mastery Flight Training Inc with regards to low passes.

Not all low passes may be legal over a runway environment

See ntsb.gov/alj/O_n_O/docs/Aviation/4020.pdf where a Lear did a low pass and got busted for literally not having his gear down.


(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

…So if you are over a very very flat area (salt flats? dry lake bed?) you could fly 1 foot above the surface! …Engine fails? Just hit the flaps and set it down.

So I guess what this says is that if you do a low pass when nobody is around to see it is basically okay by the FAA because no person or property is around to be endangered…Like you said, just don’t have your friend standing there to film it :slight_smile:

It seems strange that low passes over a runway would be frowned upon…Maybe you are landing at a remote airport and want to make sure the runway surface is suitable to land, or are just making sure there are no animals or obstructions on the runway.
Couldn’t you just claim it was a go-around?


I believe (A) is a catchall to make it legal fly *anywhere outside sparsely populated (AKA in town, over cities) lower than 500 feet AGL to land on a street should an engine fail. That’s how I interpret it anyway.

© is the one that allows you to fly lower than 500 in sparsely populated areas (or water surfaces) with the caveat steer clear of things mentioned in reference.

In my eyes, be kinda hard to say your intent is a go-around (aborted landing) you are doing 200 to 300 knots over the runway AND if the gear were in the up and locked position one foot above the ground.

Intent to land just doesn’t appear to be there. :wink:


“I sure was intending to land…Yes, I am aware I was going 300 knots. No, the landing speed of my plane is 110 knots…I forgot the landing gear. Good thing I didn’t land!”

…You are completely right. There is no way you are going to defend it as a go-around if you are going 3x your final approach speed :slight_smile:


Real simple- If you’re at a towered airport ASK THE TOWER for a high speed pass over the runway.
I’ve done it and it was approved


Negative Ghost Rider… The pattern is full.


“Real simple- If you’re at a towered airport ASK THE TOWER for a high speed pass over the runway.
I’ve done it and it was approved

This should work. I request a long landing sometimes so I can land at the end of the runway rather at the start of the runway because I have to taxi to the other end anyways (FBO is at the south end and if the wind is favoring 17, I’ll end up landing on the North end. 1.5 miles at taxi speed.). I’m flying a 172 and I don’t need a 10,000 foot runway! I’ve never been denied a long landing, and a long landing is sort of a low pass since I’m just floating in ground effect above the runway.


Flying a rental airplane might be construed as endangering the property of others in the wreckless and dangerous category. If They don’t see you, it didn’t happen.


If you’re cleared for the option a fly-by is one of the options, I think?
Probably a good thing to let tower know anyway. :slight_smile:


“Just because the tower controller approves a low approach does not make a high speed pass just above the runway legal.” That is a direct quote from an OKC FSDO inspector.


If you remain under 200kts you should have no problems.

Not all that is leagle is safe.
Not all that is safe is leagle.


That ASI took issue with a 100 kt. pass done by a Cessna 150 while over a runway with a low approach clearance…


I’ve done some low flying in my life. Got a ticket once in Utah. I flew low in a canyon in SE Utah. I dropped my plane into a perfectly straight canyon that was 100 feet wide and 100 feet deep. No people and though the park ranger originally (as I landed) claimed that I had broken the rules by flying below 500 feet, by the time I went to trial they had placed a ranger directly below me (I would have seen him!) and I got a thirty day suspension. I have also flown just above the waves as they break near the Mexican beach. I have flown at 5 feet AFL going up the Colorado River (AGL should be AWL-it is water, not ground) when I encountered a jet doing some ground hugging maneuver and he passed about 30 feet above me-no damage that couldn’t be fixed by a good dry cleaner. I once buzzed a friends farm and pulled up to avoid a large tree at the end of the field. My friend snapped a picture from the ground and it was amazing how close I came to the tree. When you pull the nose up to 30 degrees, the plane does not follow the nose-there is forward momentum, etc, etc, and it would have been easier than I imagined to hit the tree. I have not flown low in the past 25 years, and I have concluded that it might be safe under certain circumstances, but is best not to practice low flying. I have an acquaintance whose sister was killed when a low flying plane hit an unmarked wire. It just isn’t worth it.