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Old August 9th, 2008, 02:22 PM   #1
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Flying Small plane over house.. suggestions please

I am going to rent a plane without a window and fly over the ol homestead. I have a Cannon XH A1. Should I go auto expos ? Should I go in the a.m. or p.m. ? Should I take my tripod or just hang out the door? I will by flying over Pine Island and there is a lot of water below. I will use my polarizing filter and set the focus on infinity. Any other good or great ideas?

If I fall out it should be a great shot, until the end.


Ken.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 06:06 PM   #2
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Make sure you talk to your pilot in advance.

There are FAA regulations about minimum flight altitudes that must be maintained other than takeoff and landing.

Last thing you want is to take off and discover that the pilot refuses to get you low enough to get your shots for safety reasons. And the pilot justifiably has not just the LAST word on this - but the ONLY word.

Good luck.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 07:22 PM   #3
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Found other threads.

Thanks for the info. I just found several other threads here on DVi. Sure wish I could get better at finding things here. Guess that is why they call us New Boots. Guess it could be worse.
This is what I have learned so far. 500 ft seems to be the low. Go in the early a.m. Hold my camera in my arms. Strap myself in. Tell the pilot what I want to do. Get a high wing plane.

I am still open to other ideas...........
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Old August 9th, 2008, 07:26 PM   #4
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Smoother air is usually available in the morning. But then, is the sun favoring the shot you want in the morning.

My experience with Cessna is that the windows only open about 4 inches unless they've been tampered with. That'll most likely leave you shooting at a 70-80 degree angle and not sticking your camera and head out the window. That's good for safety.

Populated areas the pilot's got to be at 1000 above ground level. Scarcely populated is 500 feet. Pilot's the one who'll determine the difference since it's him the FAA will go after for an infraction.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 09:33 PM   #5
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If it is just a happy snap for memory keep, go as you are. If it is for a commercial purpose it might be helpful to rent a Kenlab KS4 gyro to try to steady things up a bit. Camera zoom will be pretty much useless beyond about 40%.

Be ready for a lot of frustration as the Cessna cabin is very confined. The wing is high but the strut is low and may prevent you from shooting directly along the radius of a turn which will be your steadiest shot.

The window is not in a good position for you to be able use the LCD screen.

I find it more helpful to shoot from the rear seat but your pilot, depending on experience may have some centre of gravity concerns if you are carrying some weight. You also have to shoot through closed windows so you lose some clarity but you also lose more of the strut when shooting along the radius of the turn.

My cleanest images came from being in skydiver's planes which have been approved for door-off ops and shooting through the rear doorway after the skydivers have gone.

Those aircraft were the Cessna Stationair, which has a rear door, Britten-Norman Islander, which also has a rear door on the port side and Piper Cherokee Six which had a rear entry door modified for skydiving.

In those adventures, they strapped me into a spare parachute harness and tethered me to the airframe and tethered the camera as well.

Rental on these aircraft is likely to be more expensive.

The rear door is handier for getting away from wings and struts.

Another economic alternative for clean footage might be to find an aircraft which has a small hatch in the pilot's window and a pilot with an instructor's rating for the type who can fly right seat for you.

Shooting through the little hatch will present its own awkward problems and is not really an option. It also requires port turns to drop the wing out of your shot and puts you dangerously close to the controls.

Make your camera as small as it can be made by removing the lens hood and remove any shoulder straps which may entangle controls.

Lay some gaffer tape over the sharp rim around the camera lens so that the windows in the aircraft are not gouged or scratched by you. Chances are, every passenger before you has held a camera up to the window you want to use and there will be marks in the very places you want them not to be and clear transparency elsewhere.

It may be prudent but also inconvenient to attach a lanyard between the camera and the airframe to restrain the camera from striking the pilot or the panel if you happen to hit some lumpy air.

There are aviation stills specialists who sit in the co-pilot's seat facing backwards, with the lap belt around above their butt, legs clamped around the backrest of the seat and lean out of a doorway to get their air-to-air and air-to-ground shots which look absolutely magnificent.

I am an inveterate coward, not made of such adventuresome stuff. One also has to have a lot of beautiful confidence in the integrity of the seat structure and its attachment to the airframe when subjected to such abnormal loadings.

My personal preference is for manual camera settings and a shutter of about 1/150th. Early morning will be good for smoother air and atmospheric clarity where you are. This may limit you to having to shoot your subject from the eastern frontage to conceal part of the long shadows behind the subject. Because the sun is low onto sidewalls, contrast is more extreme than when the sun is high onto darker roofing.

You will also have to be mindful of the aircraft shadow which may fall in the upper half of your shot, depending on how early you are on the job. The downside of this is that light will enter the opposite window behind you and come back off the window you are shooting through unless you cloak the space between the camera and window. If you have the windowless aircraft you mention then this problem goes away.

Try not to brace against the airframe as vibration from the engine and prop buffet may affect the camera and blur your shots.

Last edited by Bob Hart; August 9th, 2008 at 10:02 PM. Reason: error
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Old August 11th, 2008, 12:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth Burgener View Post
500 ft seems to be the low.
Not true!

500ft low limit is the general limit for flying over unpopulated areas (land and sea)
1000ft is low limit (above the highest obstruction) when overflying populated areas.
These are world wide regulations, not only FAA.

So in your case, do not expect the pilot to accept any lower than 1000ft over your house.
Notice that the pilot might get in trouble with the authorities if flying below the limit.
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Old August 14th, 2008, 02:44 AM   #7
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I used to fly.

You can go lower than 500 feet if the area is unpopulated, if it's uncontrolled airspace, and if you're not putting anything or anyone in jeopardy on the ground. I once flew with a guy who demonstrated a plane in Arizona and we didn't get much higher than 50 feet off the ground the whole time. The pilot will let you know what's possible.

If you're over water you can probably get pretty low.

If you're much over 1,000 feet above ground level aerials start to get pretty boring.

You'll want to be in the left seat if you're shooting with a video camera. The camera's slung onto your right shoulder or your right side, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to get a camera into the proper position if you're shooting from the right seat.

Cessnas have a bracket that keeps the window from swinging all the way up. Some planes have the bracket disconnected and the window will go all the way up when opened.

As for time of day, early morning and late afternoon provide the most interesting shadows. One of my best volcano pictures was taken in the late afternoon when the sky was getting darker due to an overcast layer, and the lava was glowing brightly. It was still light enough to get the texture of the black lava field due to the ambient light.
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Old August 14th, 2008, 09:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Sensui View Post
I used to fly.

You can go lower than 500 feet if the area is unpopulated, if it's uncontrolled airspace, and if you're not putting anything or anyone in jeopardy on the ground. I once flew with a guy who demonstrated a plane in Arizona and we didn't get much higher than 50 feet off the ground the whole time. The pilot will let you know what's possible.

If you're over water you can probably get pretty low.

If you're much over 1,000 feet above ground level aerials start to get pretty boring.
Dean,
I work as an air traffic controller specialist, and the ICAO regulations are pretty strict about the 500ft low limit for unpopulated areas. This is regardless of controlled/uncontrolled airspace.

I know every country can have local rules which varies a little from the standard ICAO regulations. Can this have been a local rule for Hawaii?

A permission for a special low level flight (in this case the photo mission), might be granted by FAA, if asked before the flight?
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Old August 15th, 2008, 10:38 AM   #9
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Hi guys, I am also a pilot, 500 ft. above in scarcely populated areas, 1000 ft. in populated areas.

The Cessna 172 has pins on the window struts that will allow it to open a full 90 degrees, just need to set that up with the pilot / FBO when you discuss the mission.

If you are near an airport that offers skydiving lessons, that would also be a great option, as most have the right door removed, and you can get a safety harness, and shoot thru the open door.

Keep in mind that even in smooth air there will be quite a bit of buffeting since that big hole in the fuselage is interrupting the airflow. :)

Have Fun!
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Old August 15th, 2008, 11:37 AM   #10
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A fixed wing pilot is going to be more cautious about doing low level manoeuvres than a helicopter pilot on a photo shoot. To get good shots of a single building the chances are you're going to have to do a banked turn around it, otherwise you're just going to have some straight passes.

I know fixed wing people who have done still photographs of houses, but that different to getting good film of the same subject.

BTW Former P.P.L.
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Old August 15th, 2008, 12:08 PM   #11
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Rent a helicopter instead. Then you can do this... :)
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Old August 15th, 2008, 12:57 PM   #12
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When shooting out the door of the plane, you can loosen your seatbelt up enough so you can lean out some, but you don't want to be so far out that the camera gets into the airstream, I've always been able to get out far enough to get the shot but not so far I get buffeted by the wind. The key to aerial photography is the pilot. If he can go upwind past your shot and head back downwind, banking so you can do what you want, it's smoother than going upwind or crosswind. You'll want to avoid zooming in very far--the more you zoom, the shakier your shot. The tripod won't do you any good, but if the weather's rough a barfbag can be a useful accessory.
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Old August 15th, 2008, 02:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trond Saetre View Post
Dean,
I work as an air traffic controller specialist, and the ICAO regulations are pretty strict about the 500ft low limit for unpopulated areas. This is regardless of controlled/uncontrolled airspace.

I know every country can have local rules which varies a little from the standard ICAO regulations. Can this have been a local rule for Hawaii?

A permission for a special low level flight (in this case the photo mission), might be granted by FAA, if asked before the flight?
Trond:

Below is the FAR regarding minimum altitudes. Note that there's an exception over open water or over sparsely populated areas. That would include the deserted desert in Arizona, unless the rabbits or snakes file a complaint :-)

And there's the part about staying away from people or property, even if the area is unpopulated. So pilots can't buzz boats or dune buggies. I did get a chance to read a diary of a WWII pilot who said they were flying under bridges while training in California.

That said, it's not a good idea to fly so low that the pilot wouldn't be allowed enough time to sort out a power-loss problem or at least prepare for a proper ditching. With a Cessna 152 or 172 that's at least 500 feet if the pilot sets up for "best glide" descent rate of 500 fpm immediately. That will give less than a minute to get squared away and send out a distress call -- provided the radio can reach anyone at that altitude.

ATC might allow permission to operate in a given area. Just need to radio the controlling agency or phone in advance. I've done that for news coverage at the edge of a TCA. But the altitude requirements still apply.

When flying the volcano pilots set up an informal procedure where everyone flew clockwise around the vent and constantly reported their positions. They also called in the blind to let everyone in the vicinity know they were entering or exiting the area. That way we'd know how many were there, about what altitudes they were at, and where they were. And in the 25 years the volcano's been running, there has never been a reported accident.

The problem with shooting while turning in a Cessna is that the high wing blocks the view of the horizon. Then with a low-wing airplane flying level blocks the view of the ground.

As Dylan suggested, you can't beat a helicopter for shooting aerials. I'm currently learning how to fly a radio-controlled one in hopes of eventually building one that will hoist a video camera. It's higher than a jib, and can get lower than a full-scale helicopter. There are still serious safety issues, tho, since these flying weedwhackers can cause serious injuries.

====

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

(d) Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.
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Old August 15th, 2008, 04:00 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Dean Sensui View Post
ATC might allow permission to operate in a given area. Just need to radio the controlling agency or phone in advance. I've done that for news coverage at the edge of a TCA. But the altitude requirements still apply.
True, by asking in advance we (ATC) try to cooperate as much as we can for both commercial flights like news coverage, and also general/private flights if work load permits. For photo missions, personally I like to give the flight it's own area to operate and keep others away if traffic load permits. But not in cases like this specific question where the idea is to fly low level and possibly below the 500/1000ft hard deck, unless we have the copy of the granted permission. See more details below.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Sensui View Post
When flying the volcano pilots set up an informal procedure where everyone flew clockwise around the vent and constantly reported their positions. They also called in the blind to let everyone in the vicinity know they were entering or exiting the area. That way we'd know how many were there, about what altitudes they were at, and where they were. And in the 25 years the volcano's been running, there has never been a reported accident.
This is a very good idea, and ATC highly encourage doing this in uncontrolled airspace when there are many flights in one area.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Sensui View Post
91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
I see FAA's regulations differ a bit from ICAO in (c) where ICAO has a 500ft hard deck both over water and land. (including sparsely/unpopulated areas)

From the FAA regulations listed by Dean, I read it as if Kenneth's house is on it's own and not near other houses, he will most likely be granted permission to fly lower than the 500/1000ft limit over his own house. If his house is in a populated area, then a helicopter flight might be granted permission, but a fix wing flight will most likely not because of the risk of causing damage to other properties and people.

Not sure about the procedures in the USA, but here in Norway, a radio call to ATC is not good enough. You need to apply for the permission in written, to the aviation authorities (minimum 3 days if I remember correct) in advance.
ATC units affected will then get a copy of the granted permission, in advance of the flight.

Last edited by Trond Saetre; August 15th, 2008 at 04:20 PM. Reason: added a bit to the first part
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Old August 15th, 2008, 05:20 PM   #15
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There is actually an FAR regarding emergency airspace restrictions for the State of Hawaii. It was the result of lava flows in the 1980's slowly destroying a couple of towns. There was a great deal of news interest, and as a result a lot more air traffic.

The head of civil defense once told area residents that he would shut down the airspace but at that time he was speaking without proper authority as the FAA has jurisdiction over Hawaii County.

Note that there is a provision for aerial news coverage, provided the controlling agency for that area is appropriately notified and a flight plan is filed. And that can be done with a phone call or via radio.

ATC is generally accommodating provided operations are carried out with safety in mind.

===

91.138 Temporary flight restrictions in national disaster areas in the State of Hawaii.

(a) When the Administrator has determined, pursuant to a request and justification provided by the Governor of the State of Hawaii, or the Governor's designee, that an inhabited area within a declared national disaster area in the State of Hawaii is in need of protection for humanitarian reasons, the Administrator will issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) designating an area within which temporary flight restrictions apply. The Administrator will designate the extent and duration of the temporary flight restrictions necessary to provide for the protection of persons and property on the surface.

(b) When a NOTAM has been issued in accordance with this section, no person may operate an aircraft within the designated area unless at least one of the following conditions is met:

(1) That person has obtained authorization from the official in charge of associated emergency or disaster relief response activities, and is operating the aircraft under the conditions of that authorization.

(2) The aircraft is carrying law enforcement officials.

(3) The aircraft is carrying persons involved in an emergency or a legitimate scientific purpose.

(4) The aircraft is carrying properly accredited newspersons, and that prior to entering the area, a flight plan is filed with the appropriate FAA or ATC facility specified in the NOTAM and the operation is conducted in compliance with the conditions and restrictions established by the official in charge of on-scene emergency response activities.

(5) The aircraft is operating in accordance with an ATC clearance or instruction.

(c) A NOTAM issued under this section is effective for 90 days or until the national disaster area designation is terminated, whichever comes first, unless terminated by notice or extended by the Administrator at the request of the Governor of the State of Hawaii or the Governor's designee.
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