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2 Answers

NWR flight restrictions

Asked by: 6192 views ,
Airspace, FAA Regulations

On the Seatle sectional, just off the Oregon coast at Nehalem Bay State (3S7), there's a charted notice: "NOTICE TO PILOTS - The Islands, Rocks, and Reefs along the Pacific coastline from 42°00'N to 46°00'N are National Wildlife Refugues. Low flight may disturb wildlife resulting in a violation of Federal law."


Meanwhile, AIM 7-5-6 reads, in part:

"b. Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of the following: National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas and Scenic Riverways administered by the National Park Service, National Wildlife Refuges, Big Game Refuges, Game Ranges and Wildlife Ranges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wilderness and Primitive areas administered by the U.S. Forest Service.


c. Federal statutes prohibit certain types of flight activity and/or provide altitude restrictions over designated U.S. Wildlife Refuges, Parks, and Forest Service Areas. These designated areas, for example: Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Areas, Minnesota; Haleakala National Park, Hawaii; Yosemite National Park, California; and Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, are charted on Sectional Charts."


I've seen the Oregon coast by land, and I'd love to have a scenic flight there when I visit in a couple weeks, but I'm confused by the ambiguous nature of the charted notice. The sectionals for the other examples cited in the AIM provide clear guidence on altitudes and areas to avoid. How exactly does one operate an airplane so as not to disturb wildlife? Is maintaining 2000' AGL sufficient?

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2 Answers

  1. Bob Watson on Jul 26, 2012

    Whether or not 2,000′ AGL is sufficient depends on who you ask, but it’s a good place to start. The intent of these restrictions is to prevent otherwise legal, low-altitude flights in areas where the animals (and people) are sensitive to noisy intrusions.
    In some places, it’s a recommendation, while in others, like the Washington State coastline, the restrictions have been enacted as a federal law. Just be careful, and do your homework before you go to one of these places. They are often amazingly beautiful to visit, and so they sometimes see a lot of traffic (excption: Hawaii’s volcanoes ALWAYS see a lot of traffic), but even from 2,000 AGL they are usually worth the visit.

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  2. John D. Collins on Jul 26, 2012

    I recently attended a meeting in Washington DC for ACF (Aernautical Charting Forum) that discussed these areas depicted on the west coast.  They are  defined in an obscure section of the federal regulations and carry stiff fines such as $10,000 if you violate the airspace. It doesn’t make any differnce if it was inadvertent and the way the regulation is written, there isn’t an exception for takeoff and landing.  There might even be some instrument approaches that could conflict with these requlations and it was being investigated. AeroNav who produces the charts were adding these areas to the affected sectionals as they were not all depicted.  Bottom line is you must not violate the restriction as there are huge fines if you are caught. 

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