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Wed, May 31, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (05.31.06): Dropping Objects

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow them to soar magnificently through it.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips. Remember... when it comes to being better pilots, we're all in this together.

Aero-Tips 05.31.06

It's summer, and fly-in season is well under way. 

A staple of local fly-in activities is the bomb-drop. Pilots fly at a prescribed altitude and try to drop a "bomb" as close as possible to a target on the ground. Usually the bomb is a bag filled with flour or some other cheap substance that makes a highly visible mark when it hits -- which is why the practice is often called "flour-bombing."

What makes this practice legal? Contrast it with the Great Nocturnal Toilet Paper Raid on Iola, KS a few years back (I think it was Iola; it might have been Fort Scott, but it was somewhere in eastern Kansas). A good ol' boy running with at least the same octane level as his Cessna dove and swooped over the little town in the dark of night, chucking rolls of TP onto hapless pedestrians below (no, it wasn't me). Why is lofting heavy bags of flour onto an airport marker okay by the Feds, when squeezably-soft Charmin was not? (Forget the "octane" and "swooping" part for now). The answer's in FAR 91.15:

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

It's the "hazard to persons or property" part that gets you in trouble. In the case of an organized fly-in precautions may indeed make "flour-bombing" a safe and Federally-accepted activity. Same goes for message tubes, mail pouches, medicine kits and anything else that you might find yourself wanting to chuck from an airplane onto the ground.

Aero-tip of the day: If you're going to throw it out of an airplane, make certain it won't hurt anyone or damage anything when it hits.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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