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Old 06-11-2002, 03:33 AM
Ranchoth Ranchoth is offline
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Flying a (Civilian) aircraft at Mach 1 over continental U.S...Penalties?

Pardon me for posting, but I was wondering...Suppose you were a private pilot, and had an aircraft capable of supersonic flight (Like a surplus MiG, or some such). Now, as I recall, the FAA prohibits (Non-military) aircraft from flying over Mach 1 over land in the United States, because of the sonic boom. Now say you flew your aircraft at Mach-1+ from one small airport to another-From, say, Idaho to Montana, over fairly undeveloped areas. No major cities. Assuming you didn't break any OTHER laws (Like buzzing an airliner, slaloming through obstacles at an industrial park at 200 ft, etc.), what's the worst that could happen to you when you landed? Lose your pilot's license? Fines? Prison, even? In any case, I imagine that post-9/11, the FAA would be more strict about enforcing penalties for a "stunt" like this, I just don't know what the penalties would be.

Well, thanks for your time,

(And no, I'm not going to try this for myself. But thanks for worrying.
Old 06-11-2002, 06:33 AM
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Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Well, if the only thing you did wrong was a sonic boom, I'd expect that the FAA would want to see all your paperwork and inspect your plane to see if they could fine you for anything other than busting that particular rule. The FAA can be amazingly thorough when looking for something wrong with an aircraft.

There actually are speed limits below a certain altitude, and if you exceed them (and are caught) you will be fined. Above a certain altitude there is no speed limit, but you must file an intrument flight plan, you will be tracked by ATC, and you will be caught for booming over the continental US.

If, hypothetically, I had such a jet and desired to fly at Mach speeds I'd consider flying out over international waters where I could probably boom to my heart's content without arounsing the ire of governmental agencies.

Depending on what else you may or may not be doing wrong at the time, though, penalities could involve license suspension or even jail time.
Old 06-11-2002, 07:53 AM
ski ski is offline
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Posts: 549
The key is the "getting caught" part. To get caught, first someone would have to report the sonic boom. Then, the FAA would have to be able to attribute it to you. If you didn't file a flight plan, and didn't talk to ATC, chances you'd get caught would be pretty small, I'd think.
Old 06-11-2002, 08:21 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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To get caught, first someone would have to report the sonic boom.
"If a sonic boom happens in a desert, does it make a sound?"

A pilot may fly supersonically over land if he obtains a waiver. It's in the FARs, but they're at my office at the moment and I'm not awake enough to do a search online.
'Never say "no" to adventure. Always say "yes". Otherwise you'll lead a very dull life.' -- Commander Caractacus Pott, R.N. (Retired)

'Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man.' -- Lu-Tze
Old 06-11-2002, 10:34 PM
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Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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I sort of presumed Ranchoth meant without permission...

As for what's required for an FAA OK... there are rules about who to sent it to, how to send it, and a bunch of other boring details, but essentially if you want an exception made to the rules (and "exceptions" are different than "breaking") you have to in advance tell the FAA what you want to do, when and how, with what you will be doing it, and any reasonable safety precautions.

As an example - two years ago a group of folks wanted to fly ultralights into Meigs field for a little get-together. Normally, such machines are not allowed anywhere near Chicago. But they filled out the paperwork, explained what, where, when, how, and who. The FAA wanted to know about what they would do in the event of an engine failure (one reason ultralights are not permitted near major cities is that they are more likely than other aircraft to suffer engine failures) and asked that at least one member of this expedition carry a radio and be conversant with normal airport procedures. The group had a couple of properly certified pilots in their number with the proper radios, and they gave the FAA a detailed flight path with emergency landing spots indicated for both coming and going. The FAA said OK, looks like you can do this without endangering the general public, your planning looks adequate, have fun and fly safe. And they did.

For our hypothetical sonic booomer - no doubt they could plan such an event over an area largely uninhabited to avoid disturbing the groundlings, and probably would be required to notify air traffic control facilities near their route of flight of the when and where so other traffic can be kept clear of their flight path. And the FAA may want to double-check that you are capable of handling such aircraft and manuvers as would be required for this feat. It's doable, if you want to go through the paperwork hasssles.


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