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Tue, Oct 15, 2013

R/C Aircraft Pilot Fined $10,000 By The FAA

Agency Said Raphael Pirker Illegally And Recklessly Operated A UAV In Virginia

The FAA has fined the pilot of an R/C airplane, which it classifies as a UAS, $10,000 for what the agency says is the reckless and careless operation of a Ritewing Zephyr  powered glider aircraft in the vicinity of the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, Virginia.

According to the FAA, the operator... whose name is Raphael Pirker but who is known as "Trappy" ... was the pilot in command of the aircraft, and that he does not "possess a Federal Aviation Administration pilot certificate."

The Order of Assessment (Docket No. 2012EA210009) charges that Trappy operated the aircraft with a camera aboard that sent real-time video to the ground; that the flight was performed for compensation; and that he operated the aircraft at altitudes of approximately 10 feet to approximately 400 feet over the University of Virginia in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.
 
Specifically, the FAA charges that the pilot:

  • Operated the aircraft directly towards an individual standing on a UVA sidewalk causing the individual to take immediate evasive maneuvers so as to avoid being struck by your aircraft.
  • Operated the aircraft through a UVA tunnel containing moving vehicles.
  • Operated the aircraft under a crane.
  • Operated the aircraft below tree top level over a tree lined walkway.
  • Operated the aircraft within approximately 15 feet of a UVA statue,
  • Operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of railway tracks.
  • Operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of numerous individuals.
  • Operated the aircraft within approximately 20 feet of a UVA active street containing numerous pedestrians and cars.
  • Operated the aircraft within approximately 25 feet of numerous UVA buildings.
  • Operated the aircraft on at least three occasions under an elevated pedestrian  walkway and above an active street.
  • Operated the aircraft directly towards a two story UVA building below rooftop  level and made an abrupt climb in order to avoid hitting the building.
  • Operated the aircraft within approximately 100 feet of an active heliport at UVA.

"Additionally, in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes between 10 and 1500 feet AGL when you failed to take precautions to prevent collision hazards with other aircraft that may have been flying within the vicinity of your aircraft," the order states.

"Trappy" has 20 days to file an appeal with the NTSB. His lawyers last week filed a motion to dismiss the case. He is believed to be the first person actually to be fined by the FAA for such a flight. The blog sUAS News reports that flights performed by the pilot and Team Blacksheep, which self-identifies as "R/C Daredevils," are the subject of "heated" debate in the R/C aircraft community.

FMI: FAA Order, http://team-blacksheep.com/

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