In September, 2007, this report aired in Salt Lake City about Dell Schanze buzzing a commercial tour boat.
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.
But there should be balance in everything. For example, we can’t be accountable if 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 reputation.
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 limelight.
It isn’t the first for this pilot, who blames all the unwelcome attention on media “terrorists” (his word) that are out to get him.
In 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. Great. I’m 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 them.
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.