Cities and Industrial Areas


There are two extra good reasons for not flying foolishly in these areas. One is that you can break your neck easily and sensationally if you are too slow over such an area, and are forced to land; the other is that you do flying in general a great disservice by making a nuisance of yourself by low or unnecessary flying over populated areas. Low flying over town is not only impolite but it is actually dangerous. In addition, you can be arrested by the local police for such flying and can be cited by the FAA for a violation. Fines, revocation of certificate, and even imprisonment can be the penalty. 

If you obey the Federal Aviation Regulations and State laws and maintain an altitude that will enable you to glide to the outskirts of town in the event of a forced landing, You will be high enough not to disturb the people on the ground with the noise of your plane.

“Smog” is prevalent around most big cities, and around smaller towns with many factories. This mixture of fog and smoke is one of your worst enemies. It easily obscures an airport. It destroys your horizon, limiting both vertical and forward visibility. Stay out of it whenever you can. Where possible, land at an airport outside the limits of the smog, talk to an experienced pilot and get his advice before flying to any airport closer in which may be covered with smog. 

Eighteen years ago, when this booklet was first published, experienced pilots in the Los Angeles area has some sound simple advice for plots on the subject of smog which is still applicable. They summed it up with the statement that a pilot must pick his way carefully through heavy smog. 

This hazy, light fog which is a mixture of ocean moisture, exhaust gases from automobiles, and manufacturing smoke. Is proving an increasing pain in the neck to local pilots. Depending on wind conditions, the visiting pilot may either fly “on top” at about 4,000 feet and still see hazy landmarks on the ground, or he may drop to 1,000 feet and fly through the haze. Smog conditions usually are most severe early in the morning and burn off partially during the day. On fields near the coast, late afternoon ground fog often obscures the ground during the winter months.

There are more light airplanes per square mile in southern California than anywhere else in the United States. Airports are crowded, and traffic is a problem. A visiting pilot should use extreme care in entering a strange, crowded field. Usually there are planes circling any southland field at any hour when flying in permissible, and a visitor should plan to follow a local plane into the traffic pattern. 

Experienced pilots say that the smog situation in Los Angeles City area ( the area within the coastal plain from San Bernardino, westward) is far worse than it was eighteen years ago. A pilot entering this area in the late afternoon with the sun across the smog will often find the summertime flight visibility reduced to “zero” and the only terrain visible to him will be that directly below. Radio navigation, or an intimate knowledge of the terrain, is unnecessary under these conditions. It is advisable for the pilot to land at an airport east of the mountains and ask an experienced pilot the best method to proceed. 

Music plays over airplane over industrial area

Don’t forget flight and ground visibility requirements of Federal Aviation Regulations for VFR flights control zones and other controlled airspace. 

What experienced pilots say about smog in California also applies to such places as Buffalo, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Wilmington, or Nashville. City haze or smog is a hazard which all pilots should respect. It causes trouble on the scheduled airlines, and many a trip which was in bright sunshine a few miles out of town finishes virtually on instruments. 

The private pilot often has the option of several airports at large cities, and flights should be planned with such alternates in mind. It is not possible here to say which airports at major cities profit by prevailing winds and have their smog blown away, but the pilot himself ought to learn these facts about cities into which he flies regularly. 

Another “man-made” hazard in the vicinity of cities and towns which has grown by “ leaps and bounds “ is that of the tall television transmitting tower. The trend is ever upward toward outer space. Many of them extend over a thousand feet above the terrain on which they are located, with some up to approximately 2,000 feet, and they are often built on some of the highest knolls in the area. Although the large cities will have more towers, you will find the tallest one near towns centrally located in a large rural area.

Part of your flight planning on every flight should include the use of the latest aeronautical charts to check the altitude of the highest objects on either side of the proposed course. Choose an altitude that will clear the highest one with plenty to spare. On a flight involving minimum ceiling or during letdown for a landing approach, this may not be possible. It then becomes absolutely necessary that you know where each one is and your position relative to it. If not alert in restricted visibility, you may find a tower staring you in the face before you know it. Keep in mind that recently constructed towers may not appear on your chart. 

Perhaps more insidious than the towers themselves are the cables that support them. These cables

Radio Tower tips its hat to startled pilotmay be two or three inches in diameter formidable opponents for any airplane, especially since they may be invisible until too late to avoid them. They may extend out at a 45-degree angle from their point of attachment to the tower. This means that collision with a cable attached at a height of 1,500 feet above the base of the tower when flying 1,000 feet above the terrain, and at a distance of almost a quarter of a mile when flying 500 feet above the terrain. So don’t see how close you can miss these towers. Remember those invisible tentacles reaching out for you. Once they make contact, you have already lost.

Remember that regulations in FAR part 91 require visual flight over congested areas to be 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

This will affect the ticklish problem of getting into a city where industrial smoke and fog combine to restrict visibility. This rule, and known difficulties of visual flying under smog conditions, make it doubly wise for the pilot to land outside the affected area and talk it over with a knowledgeable pilot.

Check points in the outskirts of any large city are plentiful, but they must be known by the pilot, because no aeronautical chart is in sufficient detail to show them. However, the local aeronautical chart for that city ( if there is one) would be helpful. Without radio, the pilot must make pinpoint observations in approaching the airport. Only two real aids are available: his own memory of landmarks gathered on previous flights, or the advice of a knowledgeable pilot.

Small cities on coasts and rivers are not so difficult to enter under hazy conditions as big, sprawling places like Chicago, Kansas City, Boston, and Detroit. Cities like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, on rovers, give check points which are obscured only by the thickest smog. But where subdivisions, looking much alike, cover many square miles and the airport is surrounded by built-up areas, the job of finding the airport is one for an expert. 

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