FTLComm - Melfort - Monday, May 27, 2002
The first air craft took to the skies under its own power ninety-nine years ago this coming December and ever since then one fact remains. Passing through the air is almost entirely without danger but making an abrupt arrival or contact with the ground can be rated as a definite negative. Yet with all of us well aware of the affects of gravity and low altitude travel, pilots persist in making low passes.

The leading cause of fatal crashes is and always has been weather, but the second most common cause is what you see in these pictures, getting too close to the ground. The regulations for years have been not to fly below 500 feet and not below 1,000 feet over a built up area (that includes a farm yard) Canadian regulations have been upwardly revised as most pilots agree that both of those old limits were to close.

The main issue with low flight is that a moments inattentiveness, a minor control problem or a mistake in judgement, will just not give the pilot sufficient time to make a safe recovery. The aircraft in these pictures was photographed last evening and is a Mooney, an aircraft that crusies at two hundred miles an hour. Its speed is its greatest safety problem as it is a "slippery" aircraft and at altitudes as seen here, only a second or two are available if an error occurs.

The only justification for low flight is an arrival or a departure. The one exception are spray planes which have to be operated by highly skilled and specially trained pilots, yet even they, each year will have sudden off airport arrivals. However, spray planes are designed with this problem in mind and have perhaps twice the survivability of other general aviation aircraft.

Riding at low altitude gives the pilot and passenger a rush as the speed seems overwhelming but thrill seeking rides should be left to the midway.

Timothy W. Shire