Could you fly a private plane on isolated private land without a pilots lucense?

And what would happen if you did ? How would such a law be enforced, unless the cops frequently investgate farmers that fly airplanes for a proper pilots license?

Lets say you inherited a massive farm with poor roads and you couldnt be bothered walking across. Luckily, there is an old rusted helicopter on a cornfield, and although you can’t afford a license, its your land so you fire it up and give it a whirl. What would the law say about this?

No. You don’t fly on the land, you fly in the air and the air is goverened by the FAA regardless of whose land is under it.

As a practical matter you would be unlikely to be caught.

I once saw FAA enforcement at a tiny airport in the Sierra Nevada foothills - the old boy had a dispute with the only mechanic in the area about the (required) annual inspection.

The mechanic called the FAA

The likely outcomes here are:

A) Nothing happens because the old helicopter abandoned to rot in a cornfield doesn’t even work. Which means there’s nothing to enforce.

B) The helicopter crashes because some random person who inherited it decided to try to take it for a whirl. This attracts a lot of attention that wouldn’t normally be focused on a farm field.

So, this would be a farm with no ATVs, tractors, 4-wheel drive vehicles, or even a broken-down horse?

Surely the FAA don’t own all of the air, though? What height does the FAA start the to own the air? What if you just flew a gyrocopter or manned DIY drone-thing less than 15 meters above the ground?

BTW, this is a purely hypothetical question in it’s entirety, but, if someone strongly disliked you and held a grudge against you for whatever reason and reported you to the FAA for flying a aircraft on your own property without a license, would they bother investigating it? Why would they really care if he was only flying it on his own property? Wouldn’t that just be a waste of time and money?

Also: Are there any laws against flying dangerously on a sufficiently large piece of private property in which it could not harm other people?

And what are the laws on flying DIY aircraft on your own land with or without a proper license? What would actually qualify as a aircraft? Let’s of course assume there are no official flight paths or anything anywhere near your property.

EDIT: I’ve rarely ever been to a working farm before, so I don’t really know what bits of equipment are usually present on farms. However, I’ve seen plenty of farmers on videos and TV use helicopters and light airplanes to do stuff around their farming yard, and there are lots of boar hunting videos on youtube with hunters flying in very low-flying helicopters.

You are assuming that the laws are written entirely by reference to height. I’m no expert but strongly suspect they simply apply to something that is flying.

The government doesn’t have to own something to regulate your conduct in or on it.

Wouldn’t that be too convoluted? “Everything” also includes things like paper planes, tiny single-cell cardboard AAA fliers (the ones that are literally lighter than a fly), balls/frisbees and bits of rubbish people throw in their garbage stack, even bits of burning smoke/dust/particles could be considered aircraft, which would be silly.

What if the aircraft has a long rope or string dangling from it all the way to the ground? Since there is a part of the vehicle touching the ground at all/most times, could it still be considered an aircraft?

I suspect the definition is written to exclude the above. It wouldn’t be hard. Courts aren’t actually as stupid as your (frankly rather silly) comments above imply. You seriously think that if a statute is worded to apply to “aircraft” a court might think that covered smoke particles or balls?

True, but (caveat: not a lawyer, and this is wikipedia), from here:

So presuming accuracy of the wikipedia entry, doesn’t this say that there is some altitude below which the FAA lacks rule making authority? This is not to say that the FAA might not attempt to impose regulations anyway, of course, but is to suggest that they might not be authorized to do so.

In the UK, you can fly a FOOT-launched microlight

They got rid of them after the Motor Law.

In the US, FAA interest in and inspection of remote private airstrips tends to be low. Basically, as long as no problems are reported, they have better things to spend time on.

So if an unlicensed pilot flew a plane at such a place without issues, he could expect to get away with this more or less indefinitely. I’ve heard tales of older pilots doing this “happily ever after”.

Pretty much, yeah, they do.

A gyrocopter that can carry a person is going to fall under either Part 91 or Part 103 of the regulations. Part 91 requires a license, Part 103 does not. A DIY “drone-thing” (I’ve actually built and flown a few) now fall under the applicable regs - if it’s under 0.55 pounds have fun but anything heavier now requires registration and has rules.

If you don’t call attention to yourself and stay over your private property you will probably not get caught but if you do the resulting fines could be expensive. Also, gyrocopters are unusual enough in today’s world they tend to attract some attention just by being loud and visibly flying.

In my experience based on flying ultralights and small homebuilts in rural Wisconsin in the 1990’s - yep, the FAA would check it out. These days, with they concerns about terrorism, they’d probably be even more likely to check out a report of illegal aviation activity.

The FAA will happily let you kill/maim yourself - that’s one reason Part 103 exists. If anyone else is at risk, though, they WILL become very, very interested. And, like I said, these days with terrorism concerns they will check out anything reported as suspicious.

If you are flying in compliance with Part 103 in the US - single seat, low-power ultralights - and not putting anyone else at risk you can do any batshit crazy thing you want. If you crash and kill yourself in a Part 103 contraption it’s likely even the NTSB wouldn’t give a damn as long as you don’t take anyone else with you.

I will point out that, to my knowledge, no one has ever built a working and actually Part 103 compliant helicopter. There have been attempts at doing so for gyrocopters but success has been questionable both from the standpoint of “actually flies” and “pilot survives”. Fixed-wing, hang-glider styles, and variations powered parachutes/parasails have been much more successful.

Other nations tend to be a bit more restrictive.

The pertinent regulations you are looking for, for manned flying things, are under FAR Part 103 in the US. Technically, anything falling under Part 103 is NOT an “aircraft”, it’s a “vehicle”. There are also the new drone regulations, or more accurately, “unmanned air vehicles”, note again the use of the term “vehicle”.

Getting a pilot’s license isn’t that hard - heck, I’ve done it myself. Plenty of farmer’s have licenses. And a certain number don’t, but either fly something to which Part 103 applies (or something close enough it would require a pretty close-up inspection to find the differences), or yes, some are flying illegally but, as I said, if you aren’t too obnoxious and don’t piss off the neighbors you might get away with it for some time.

Breaking news: the DC Circuit just last week decided Taylor v. Huerta, FAA Administrator. (No. 15-1495, May 19 2017):

(emphasis added)

found the Canadian driving a Red Barchetta:)

In theory the FAA owns all US navigable airspace down to the ground. Since some aircraft such as balloons often fly very low, this would include those altitudes. E.g, if a hot air balloon crashes into a power line, that low altitude does not limit FAA investigative or regulatory authority.

A farmer can’t shoot at a low-flying police helicopter which scared his cows, even though he owns the property beneath the air space. He also can’t restrict flight over his property, otherwise aircraft would be cutting zig-zag patterns as they flew.

The single US Supreme Court case which partially conflicts with this was United States vs. Causby in 1946: United States v. Causby - Wikipedia

If revisited that likely be overturned, due to situations involving balloons and helicopters which did not exist in 1946.

I love youse guys. I gotta go catch a turbine freight. Later.

I have been to and talked with old man on big land plot that had old J-3 cub that you could stick your finger through, had not been inspected for many years, the man did not have a pilots license, never went over 300 feet and never crossed his property lines.

A few turned him in. The FAA laughed, he is perfectly legal in what he is doing.

Even the new officious asshat FAA bureaucrats know better.

The government does not own all the air clear to the ground. Seems it is 365 AGL over private land that is not in a class airspace such as an approach to an airport. ( see above post, I though it was 300 AGL so 300 is good IMO. )

As a pipeline patrol pilot I was shot at by chicken & turkey farmers on a new route at times. Got the bullet holes to prove it. We just noted it & flew around or higher over that place as we were not interested in killing thousands of birds, even ones that stupid. Every once in a while a guy would be too good a wing shot and then we would call the sheriff for that county if the shooter was going out of a reasonable distance to try to shoot us down. Usually only took one visit to calm them down.

Fun times…

Oh, one guy had bought a plane in a box, assembled it and taught himself to fly it. Stayed low and inside his property lines.He was a transplanted
Englishman so it was not all that surprising. They are a hoot in many ways.

Passengers, acting the ass, lots of ways to get the FAA to look at you but if you don’t do that, a local busybody can’t hurt you. Got to stay low though.