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4 Answers

Are training maneuvers considered aerobatics?

Asked by: 3216 views FAA Regulations, General Aviation

I realized today that an airway crosses through a portion of the area my flight school uses as a practice area. According to 91.303, aerobatics are prohibited within 4NM of the centerline of an airway. Maneuvers are regularly performed near this airway, and may encroach on the 4NM limit. Are training maneuvers considered aerobatics? FAR pasted below -

Sec. 91.303

Aerobatic flight.

No person may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight--

(a) Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement;

(b) Over an open air assembly of persons;

(c) Within the lateral boundaries of the surface areas of Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace designated for an airport;

(d) Within 4 nautical miles of the center line of any Federal airway;

(e) Below an altitude of 1,500 feet above the surface; or

(f) When flight visibility is less than 3 statute miles.

For the purposes of this section, aerobatic flight means an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft's attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.

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4 Answers

  1. Kris Kortokrax on Dec 13, 2011

    OK, I’ll paint the bullseye on my back.
    You probably need to be a bit more specific about which training maneuvers you might consider to be aerobatic.  Maneuvers such as chandelles and lazy eights use bank angles of 30 degrees and pitch angles less than that.  Spins would probably be the closest to what you might consider to be aerobatic.
    These maneuvers are required to be taught for certain certificates.  That might be enough to consider them normal flight (as far as training flights go).
    Now, let’s take a look at the issue of 4 nautical miles from the center line of a federal airway.  In this day and age where many instrument equipped airplanes have a GPS and the preferred routing filed is usually direct, who is flying federal airways?  Thus, is there really a need to remain 4 NM clear of VOR airways? Also, the training maneuvers are conducted in VFR conditions and utilization of clearing turns should aid in maintaining separation from other aircraft.
    Let the slings and arrows fly!

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  2. John D. Collins on Dec 14, 2011

    I agree with Kris that training maneuvers required for a certificate would not be considered aerobatics.  While it is true that GPS and direct routes are becoming ubiquitous, airways are still heavily used, particularly in some parts of the country where direct routings are not the norm.  Some areas that come to mind are the northeast corridor, the DC area, Florida, and the mountainous western part of the country. My recommendation would be to avoid the airways when performing training maneuvers, even if it is not legally required to do so. In either case, clearing turns, and a diligent look out are important, but why practice in a potentially higher traffic area?

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  3. Micah on Dec 14, 2011

    Good comments above, but also consider that there are exceptions to every rule. 91.303 mentions nothing of aerobatic boxes. My home field is also home to several airshow flyers who get a box opened up for them to practice maneuvers. This box “violates” (a), (c), (d), (e) above. Except that this box is authorized by the FAA (probably through the LOA with the local approach controllers), it is otherwise not allowed. (And this box is only open during certain periods.)
    Your question is a good one; I can certainly see how you may interpret 91.303 as prohibiting flight training near an airway. If flight training doens’t involve “abrupt change in an aircraft’s attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight” then I am unaware of what flight training looks like (or my students are…). I think you are probably looking at a rule that has one intention with language that overlaps into flight training. I’m not sure how this is resolved (although possibly by an AFD note that “extensive flight training [occurs] within the vicinity of…”) but I imagine what you’ve found is an easter egg of sorts within the code. I don’t imagine that 91.303 should prohibit you from normal training manuevers (certainly anything defined in the PTS) in any specified training area. 

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  4. Bill Trussell on Dec 14, 2011

    It is important to note that 91.303 cites “For the purposes of this section, aerobatic flight means an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft’s attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.” while at the same time 91.307 indicates that parachutes are not required for maneuvers performed under ” (2) Spins and other flight maneuvers required by the regulations for any certificate or rating when given by—
    (i) A certificated flight instructor;
    There is a lot of conflicting guidance here within the FARs.
    As for perfromance of maneuvers within 4 NM of an airway, I would encourage you to read 91.13 careless and reckless operations.  Certainly one could be deemed careless by performing maneuvers in a high traffic area should a loss of separation event occur.
    The bottom line here is the intention of the rules is to protect as many aircraft operators as possible, including those receiving ATC services while operating under an IFR flight plan ( those who are the highest priority, those for whom separation services are provided NOT on just an as workload permits basis, and those most likely to be using airways regardless of how they are navigating on them).  I would suggest seeking out another area for those manuvers that might be difficult to fit into an enroute or transition terminal airspace regardless of whether the rules, through interpretation, might seem to allow them.

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