In September, 2007,
report aired in Salt Lake City about Dell Schanze buzzing a
commercial tour boat.
But wait, there's more...
I've said for years that one of paramotoring's greatest appeals is the
lack of a 500 foot minimum distance rule—a requirement followed by nearly all other aircraft. It's
much of the reason I and many others got into the sport. This freedom is one
of our crown jewels—the
best part of FAR 103. I can slide my soles down a deserted country road
completely legally. I'm not endangering anybody and, just as importantly,
it doesn't even look like I'm endangering anybody.
It's magical. Shear friggin' magic.
But there should be balance in everything. For example, we can't be
a driver rear-ends someone because they saw us flying in the
adjoining field. At the same time, we must be aware of how distracting we are near major roads. Flying wildly right next
to a busy road, as Mr. Schanze did in a previous publicity stunt, is
asking for it. Flying wildly in front of and around a commercial tour
boat, within feet of it, is REALLY asking for it!
I've watched flying sites disappear because of obnoxious behavior
foisted on neighbors from a very few pilots. When the many perceive the
actions of the few to be unacceptable, the many will pass laws prohibiting
the activity. Everybody loses.
In the current security environment, flaunting our lack of regulation around a
commercial passenger carrying boat is grievously dangerous to our
Even if there is little actual endangerment, you can bet some of
those people felt threatened. What if he lost control? What if something
broke during a steep turn? What if the distracted boat captain ran aground
(or into another boat) because he was pulled from his regular duties trying
to prepare for the possibility of this rogue pilot careening into his
passengers? You and I realize those possibilities are extremely remote but
such is the public perception from which policy gets made, good or bad,
right or wrong.
These passengers and many of the news watchers will find out that, in
fact, there is no law keeping paramotors some minimum distance away. That
apparent loophole will make some of them angry. They will demand action
from their government representatives who will then apply pressure to "do something." Such is the genesis of many admittedly
ridiculous laws that we must endure.
This type of behavior puts us in a most unfriendly and unwelcome
It isn't the first for this pilot, who blames all the
unwelcome attention on media "terrorists" (his word) that are out to get
this incident, he was doing steep maneuvering next to a highway full of
stop-and-go traffic on the interstate. It was apparent to many on the
highway that he was in an attention grabbing mode. That netted him
a warning by the FAA and a community effort to ban powered paragliding.
locals were happy to hear that. His regulatory ignorance is clear when he
said that it was legal to fly over the highway because he was 500 feet. If
the highway is considered congested, there *is* no minimum.
Furthermore, the highway incident made a judge rule that highways were
off limits. Folks, I can't say it strongly enough that we do NOT want to
force the FAA into defining "congested area." I'll guarantee that you won't
like the result and this sort of behavior will make the judges do it for
What a shame.
Is it publicity? Why incur so much bad press? Does he really think that
nobody will notice? I have no idea what could drive these shenanigans but
can only hope the FAA, which is now investigating, makes an example out of this one individual
instead of affecting the freedoms of U.S. citizens all over.
Lets hope the beginning of the end hasn't already begun.
For a look at positive ways to improve public perception, visit
Dell Schanze buzzes within a
few feet of a commercial tour boat carrying passengers. When questioned
later about it, he claimed it to be "perfectly legal."
The sad fact is, he's
largely right although such extreme distraction of
the boat captain could be enough hazard to violate FAR 103.9(a).
What's worse is that he has
stated publicly that "there's no rule against flying that close." Keep this up
and there will be.
proximity—its true, FAR 103 has no limit, a lacking that is one of the rule's
most endearing features. This action rubs the FAA's
collective nose in that fact.
And what do you think the
FAA will be pressured to do about it? If you raised your hand and said
"implement the FAR 91 limit of 500 feet," GO TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS!!!
This type of publicity
seeking, irresponsible behavior endangers the freedom for everyone. Let him