formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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December 8, 2015 Please don't kill us

The Liberty Gazette
December 8, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Imagine yourself aboard an airliner departing Bush Intercontinental or Hobby. You gaze out at the city through puffy clouds when something flashes past your window. You hear a thump and the captain announces that the airplane is returning to the airport.

US Airways Flight 1549 was not able to return to the airport when such a thing happened, and landed in the Hudson River instead. Everyone escaped the aircraft and took flights on a different day. What took down Flight 1549? Birds - large Canada snow geese.

Birds instinctively dive away from aircraft when they see it coming, but I’ve taken a bird strike that left a big dent in the leading edge of the left wing on a Learjet. I’ve also experienced a direct hit on the windshield in the middle of the night. The impact was so loud my co-pilot was wide-eyed with shock.

Birds are relatively soft and light weight, but what about drones? What instinct, what self-preservation system do they have to avoid aircraft? None.

The FAA has been under pressure to create regulations for drones. Amazon, Google and Walmart are chomping at the bit to offer delivery services via drone and are discovering the FAA does nothing fast, frustrating those companies drooling over potential profit increases.

More than one million buzzing, bug-like drone craft will be sold as "Christmas presents" this year. What’s to keep someone from flying one into an airliner landing at Bush? A drone operator not trained properly or who is cavalier about their responsibility can cause real trouble, so now those who play with drones will be subject to regulations.

FAA: Flying a drone anywhere in U.S. airspace automatically makes the operator become part of the U.S. aviation system. Under the law, the drone is an aircraft, so while rules for drones may be different, drone operators carry responsibility for safe operation, the same as a Cessna or 747 pilot.

Linda: The FAA is still working on the new regulations but the agency is opening the door to commercial drone operations. What must be answered is how to certify the person operating the drone craft, and this next part is very important.

Last week the FAA authorized Kansas State University Polytechnic to train students and companies on flying unmanned aircraft, and created a mandatory registration process for drones.

Drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds it must be registered. The process is simple, and can be done through an app or online. An electronic certificate is immediately issued along with an identification number that must be marked on the drone prior to it being flown. The FAA then provides the new drone owner with information on where it is legal and not legal to fly their toy.

Federal guidelines for safe flight include no flying at night, no flying beyond line-of-sight, and no flying over populated areas. Operators must act responsibly. If an accident occurs the results can devastate entire families.

If you or someone you know is purchasing a drone this year, be sure you play it safe, play by the rules, and don’t risk lives: register your drone and fly it safely, avoiding incursions.

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