What happened to minimum safe altitudes?


No one seems to be using them, particularly:

** 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General

(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.**

I live about 3 miles N of KSMQ in a “congested area” and small planes and helicopters consistently fly over lower than 500’ AGL. I’ve filed several complaints with the FAA and the airport but without tail numbers, nothing can be done. Most of the time can’t see the tail numbers as the planes are directly overhead, and if I can see them the plane goes by too fast to read them. My main complaint is the noise, and also the safety of the neighborhood.

So, pilots, what is your excuse for flying lower than flight rules allow?


Your proximity to an airport means 91.119 doesn’t really apply.

Sec. 91.515 - Flight altitude rules.
(b) This section does not apply –

(1) During takeoff or landing;


Sec. 91.119

Minimum safe altitudes: General.

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

without looking at the airspace for the area, it may have to do with the NYC class B. Same thing happens in the CHI area.

Welcome to Somerset Airport (SMQ), a family owned and operated public use airport since 1946 . :wink:


if you don’t like the airplane noise then why were you so stupid to get a house near an airport.

gee! some people are so stupid!


We live in a valley with ridges north & south, the airport is south. When I’ve visited the airport, the landings I saw approached from the south and the take offs went to the south. So I’m not sure the take off and landing exception applies to what I see flying over the house. Besides the planes I’m seeing may not even have originated at KSMQ.

BTY, for the Troll known here as rw812, we’ve lived here since 1968 and it wasn’t a problem till about 9 years ago and has really gotten worse in the last 3.


Looking at the airport data, the airport has two turf runways 8/26 and 17/35. 17/35 would be the most “North South”. The hard runway is 12/30 which would be WNW/ESE.
Keep in mind there is probably quite a bit of VFR traffic which is going to enter the pattern, especially if its a busy airport. My assumption is that 12/30 is the most used runway, and if you’re to the North of the field, you’re right under where I would be setting up to enter a downwind for 12 (assuming left traffic, I did not check). At 3 nm,even by air set up for the approach to the field, checklist is complete, and I’m getting down to pattern altitude which is just about 500AGL.
On the sectional within 3 miles of the field looks pretty flat. The highest point I see in any surrounding “hills” is 880msl, but thats to the NE about 6 or 7 miles. I also don’t see any dense population north of the field until Baskin Ridge or Peapeck.
Also keep in mind that the NYC class B is just to the East of the field, and although that ring has a floor of 3000, you don’t want to skirt that airspace w/o clearance.
My guess is that the aircraft you’re seeing are setting up for the pattern. Keep in mind helos are flying in a way so as not to intefere with airplane traffic to a field, so they might be either lower or on another traffic pattern.


you weren’t smart enough to realize that traffic patterns could possibly change in the future. Sorry, I have no pitty for anyone who buys a house near an airport, even if it is quiet at the time, and bitches about the noise down the road.


We’re trying to land and therefore exempt from the rule you’re quoting!

Your repeated complaints to FAA only serve to gum up the works by wasting the time of FAA personnel in useless pursuits.

BTW, if the aircraft truly are at 500 feet AGL or less as they pass over you, then the N number can easily be discerned with the aid of a good pair of binoculars. Not that it would make any difference in your complaints, just as a rough measure of how high the aircraft actually are.


There was an error in my original post, we are to the NE between Rt 78 and 206.

Thanks for the info.


Yeah, that really narrows it down. Especially as 206 runs north and south and 78 runs eat and west. :unamused:


I have tried many times to get the numbers with binoculars, but trying to get them focused on something that close and moving that fast is something I have yet to master. As for distance, I’ve been to the airport and stood 500’ from planes, so I have a good idea how big they look at that distance. BTW, I’ve only made 3 complaints to the FAA, I don’t file complaints for no good reason. The last plane I filed a complaint on came over the house about 100’ above the trees at what sounded like full throttle. I was waiting to hear the crash after it passed. Fortunately he just kept going.


If you’re in the area on the chart labeled Basking Ridge or Liberty Corner (Im unfamilar with the area) that would be the perfect area to set up for entry into a downwind. Go to runwayfinder.com and look up KSMQ.If the traffic pattern is left and the active runway is 12 I would be heading towards the numbers for 30 over your area. Then would turn right for a left down wind as I got close to the airport, but my altitude would be close to pattern alt as it’s about 2 or 3 miles out.
It’s quite possible departures headed your way are staying clear of the Class B above. I would agree with JHEM that they’re probably higher than 500AGL if they’re departing because of the terrain, but again they’re probably giving themselves breathing room to not enter the class B airspace above.


Many reasons this can happen for very legit reasons and that power up you should consider music to your ears :wink:

What the pilot may be doing is aborting the landing AKA go-around. This happens because a deer popped out on the runway, another airplane didnt’ vacate the runway or many other reasons. We are told as pilots if the landing doesn’t feel right, full throttle and go around.

You may want to search the forums for threads that deal with airport noise, complaints, noise abatement rules and the like. Plenty of threads that give good advice on why things happen, maybe some things you can do to reduce the noise level (insulation). Complaints like yours come up time to time and they tend to get heated.

Pretty much the bottom line, just like living near railroad tracks and busy highways, living near an airport will bring noise. If the airport was there before you moved there, I have no sympathy for you. You should have researched the area just like researching an area for jails, landfills, flood plain issues BEFORE you moved.


Here in central Jersey there are always deer on the side of the road, probably similar for North Jersey. Meaning, there are probably deer on the runway every so often, causing go-arounds. Probably more likely than you think.


Thank you for all your input on my question, I especially like the responses from all of the real estate experts here. But I digress. Aborted landing go-rounds do not apply in regards to my location. Perhaps it might be more helpful if the only people responding are people familiar with KSMQ and the air traffic in this area.


Err, don’t be so sure about this if I understand you say you live NE of the airport. I am looking at some instrument approaches that indicate to abort landings and head out to the NE of the airport.

flightaware.com/resources/airpor … GPS+RWY+08

As I stated earlier, there are many, many reasons for an aborted landing and in the approach above, the “half arc” arrow tells the pilot to turn left, climb to 2000 toward the NE and return to the point where he began the approach. (the symbol with IAF)

Under these type of rules, it’s called a missed approach which essentially is a go around at very low altitudes. The above allows the pilot to descent to 600 feet AGL before deciding to go full throttle or land.

You are not the first anti noise person that came across our path and I doubt the last, but to expect a forum POPULATED with aviation enthusiast to sympathize with you probably not going to happen


Veteran pilots are included in that population as well. :smiley:


it’s not just that there are aviation enthusiasts here and, as someone else pointed out, professional pilots but also the fact that common sense would say living near an airport is going to be noise.


Just as an example, I am about a 1/2 mile from WEBBZ when traffic is landing to the north (36R). Even at 2000’ and higher, we still get noise, but I have no complaints because, even though I am about 12-15 miles south of the airport, I understand that even that far out, I will get some aircraft noise.


won’t help on the safety issue, but these are great for all noise…barking dogs, people that have those loud exhausts etc.