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91.119: other-than-congested MSA vs. tall obstructions

Asked by: 1335 views , , , ,
FAA Regulations, General Aviation

The other day this question came to mind, and my answer was, "I have no idea."


91.119 (c) states:  "Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure. "


Let's assume a flight over an uncongested area, which is not considered sparsely populated and is not open water.  So, the MSA is 500 AGL.  What about when there is an obstruction such as an antenna tower that goes up to 500 feet tall?  Or even taller, for that matter.  What is the MSA regarding that structure?  Does the situation then revert to the sparsely populated rule where the airplane must remain 500 feet away from it in any direction?  Or, would it become like the 91.119 (b) rule in the congested area where the airplane must be 1000 feet above that tower when within 2000 feet horizontally?  Or could an airplane skim right over the top of it or right beside it since the airplane is at or above 500 AGL?  (And let's assume the path of flight is not directly at the tower, which would violate 91.119 (a) regarding engine failures and causing hazards to property.)


I realize this would be stupidly dangerous and doesn't even account for support wires splayed out away from the tower, but just for the sake of discussion...

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