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10 Answers

Mounting Camera on Outside of Aircraft

Asked by: 16192 views , ,
FAA Regulations, General Aviation

I was looking for input on regs regarding mounting cameras on the outside of the aircraft.  (Specifically a GoPro HDHero2.)  I have been filming flights for a couple months, and then was told by my CFI that the cheif CFI said not to do it.  When I asked him directly abou it, he said it would disrupt the airflow too much and your lift wouldn't be sufficient.  (Obviously, that's not at all true.)  When I told him that was just stupid and that my self and thousands of other people fly with them daily without problem, he then changed and said it was against some FAA reg.   (Which he couldn't find to prove it.)  He told me if I could prove it was legal, it would be O.K.  From what I've been able to find, there is nothing regarding it.  Any input regarding this would be greatly appreciated.

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10 Answers

  1. Bill Trussell on Apr 15, 2012

    Such a modification typically requires an STC to be issued by the FAA.  It is also possible that an STC exists already for this use, and if so, permission can be acquired by several means to use an existing STC.
    The process can be found here:
    You can also search for an existing STC.  The objective is to ensure that the modification being made will not affect the flight characteristics or interfere in any other way with the aircraft systems.
    The basis for it is issued under Part 21 of the FARs.

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  2. Carl Tyler on Apr 15, 2012

    I have read many different things, and no one seems to agree.  The one I heard (and like), is that if you can attach it to your plane without requiring tools, you’re not modifying the airplane structure.  I attach my go pro to the tie downs on the plane. I attach it with a mount I made that I tighten with wing nuts, no tools.  It’s on and off in seconds.  I’ve used the tie downs below the wing and also on the tail of the plane where it has zero impact on lift.  I have when it’s under the wing I’ve found it makes zero noticable difference to lift. 
    I wish the FAA would issue a firm statement on cameras as depending upon who you speak to you get different interpretations.

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  3. Dom on Apr 16, 2012

    I made a similar mount – to attach a gopro to the tie down. Solid and tiny. Recently called the local fsdo and they said it would require their inspection regardless of how small and how easily it releases if it was to be attached outside the plane. I agree, I don’t see how it could disrupt airflow significantly more than the the tie down eye or step that I was hoping to mount it to.

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  4. Jonathan Silva on Apr 17, 2012

    Greetings Jim! Being an aviation photographer, and a GoPro owner myself, I know that the size of the camera isn’t large enough to disrupt much airflow. My largest concern would be if the suction cup or whatever mount that is used comes loose, and since I use a safety cord (there have been lawsuits recently because people’s houses have been damaged by falling camera equipment) the camera would end up banging against the wing/fuselage/whatever. This could end up damaging the aircraft, and this is where I put on my CFI hat. Insurance would be very weary of covering damage resulting from a camera detaching and possibly striking a control surface, antenna, etc. I understand your chief’s concern, and I underatand your trust in your camera mount (mine has withstood roughly 9g’s with just the suction cup.) but there is hell to pay if something goes wrong.

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  5. Julio on Apr 21, 2012

    I dont think it needs a “dessign aproval from faa” because it doesn’t change too much the flight characteristics, i used the contour camera HD it’s really cool! 

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  6. Eric Gideon on Apr 21, 2012

    Bill, I disagree about the STC, and it’s even questionable that a form 337 would be required (as it’s a one-off modification, not a wide-brush supplement to the type’s certificate). However, an externally mounted camera would almost certainly be considered an external load. As recommended by Dom, this is something that should  be run by the FSDO so that they can apply a field approval (http://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/design_approvals/field_approvals/field_approv_proc/).


    This discussion has a great deal of information, including pilots & photographers’ personal experience: http://www.supercub.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-42066.html

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  7. Heli on May 26, 2012

    To add into the complications; each FSDO is independently operated meaning that without an STC you would be guessing as to how your local or distant FSDO would interpret the regs.
    It’s illigal to put a camera on the outside of the aircraft. No question. How illigal and to what end can it be done is subjective.
    No insurance company would cover that in the event of a claim without legal paperwork to support the install.
    As to the reality- with the thousands of gopro cameras in the air at this moment flying along outside of some pilot in commands aircraft and looking back at the limited amount of issues with such a small camera and the huge amount of enjoyment and value added to aviation, let’s make a prediction that the FAA will clarify this very soon. I bet We get to attach them inside with a simple A & P sign off and outside with an IA sign off.
    Ps. I think the FAA gets 1 in a 100 right and this one will be on the short list.

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  8. Johann on Nov 15, 2012

    How would one attach a camera to a Cirrus? Should I consider manufacturing a small bracket to attach to the tiedown rings below the wing, or should I use a strutclamp and attach it to the strut of the nose wheel or the strut on a main gear?

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  9. ted on May 11, 2013

    have you guys seen this camera before? planethalo.com

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  10. Denton Finley on Dec 04, 2014

    You can and you can’t. The FAA published a memorandum back in March regarding the subject. Basically, if it’s a temporary installation, a suction cup for example, and is not a major or minor alteration, then yes it’s legal. If it is perminantly fixed to the airplane, machine screw mounts for example, then no it’s not legal unless you process the proper paperwork. If it is an experimental aircraft, then you can mount it however you want.

    The big caviat here for certified aircraft is this – if the temporary mount departs the airplane, the Feds could find you in violation of 91.13 careless and wreckless operation. Not to mention any civil liabilities that you may face if the equipment were to depart the plane and hit someone or someone’s property on the ground.

    I’d be really sure that your camera rig is secure before you attempt to fly with it. Maybe even have some sort of tether system in place. Another thing to think about, is that if you do have a tether system in place and the mount departs the plane and the tethered camera does damage to the plane while flapping in the wind, will you insurance cover the damage? Doubtful.

    Long story short – it is legal if it’s temporary (I.e. Not a major or minor alteration) but proceed with caution.

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