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Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:45 am
by jjbaker
Here's an interesting email I received a few days ago...


I am not a seaplane pilot. I found your forum through a Google search. I wanted to see if it would be possible to ask a question on the Questions for Beaver Pilots board. The Use Permit for the seaplane operations on our bay specifies power off landings except when necessary for safe operations.

A new operator, who flies a Beaver DH-2 lands power on, essentially on all flights regardless of conditions. He is asserting that it is unsafe to attempt power off approaches to land and it would be considered a potential breach of Federal Aviation Administration laws and regulations except in the case of an emergency where the engine has failed to continue operating.

Power off landings are noted in the DeHavlland Bever DH-2 Operating Manual landing procedures and there is no mention of the procedure being unsafe. And, as you know, power off landings are not prohibited by the FAR’s. ... eview=true All previous seaplane operators on our bay have followed the power off landing condition and the other conditions of the Use Permit which were imposed in 1981 to control the seaplane operations in what is a highly populated, residential neighborhood. I wanted to ask the Beaver DH-2 board pilots if they believe power off approaches are unsafe.

As a seaplane pilot, I’d be interested in your perspective and would welcome the opportunity to put the question to DH-2 pilots. I will not share any comments without permission. Those of us who live on the bay enjoy the seaplanes. I’ve lived there for 30 years and they are part of what makes living here special.
We just want the operator to obey the rules and be a good neighbor.

Thanks for any assistance you can provide.

Source: Redacted Name [JJB]

I did initially respond that I do not answer questions of such caliber via email.
Then I decided to at least give a hint at the regulations (none were quoted in the question).

With §91.13 Careless or reckless operation in mind, to name the first applicable catch-all regulation,

  • (a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

we are looking at some sort of "good neighbor handshake agreement" made in 1981 manifested in a use permit. The new pilot in question may or may not know about this procedure being in use and is likely surprised to find himself told what kind of power setting to choose to operate his aircraft safely. There is no regulation I am aware of that declares power off or power on approaches unsafe, not recommended or limited to engine failures or emergencies. A Pilot Operating Handbook (compiled by the manufacturer) will do HELL in telling the pilot to pull power early and then face liability lawsuits for an airplane crashed due to a stalled engine and a windmilling propeller. I doubt the DHC-2 Beaver with its Radial Engine is much different in this regard.

Even during non emergency, simulated engine failures, many pilots "clear the engine" to accomplish two things:

    a) Assure that the engine is in fact still running and accepting load.
    b) Keep temperatures up to avoid forcing a potentially cooled down engine into a go around.

- - -
Considering that there is a use permit, the pilot would be smart to try and adjust his approach technique, but in the end, the argument is moot as the amount of power selected by the pilot is subject to his/ her individual safety perception. Translated: IF YOU NEED TO USE POWER TO AVOID CRASHING ON US, BY ALL MEANS, DO SO. When you think you can approach without the use of power, PLEASE DO SO. Reasonable expectation would be that the pilot will try to learn and adjust when and where able to do so safely.

I understand citizens who have gotten used to how things used to be done by one or a few particular operators in an effort to be good neighbors.
I doubt any seaplane pilot alive will refuse to do what is possible to keep a residential areas noise impact low and manageable, however I would expect a hostile response when trying to force the pilot to choose a certain power setting by quoting some sort of regulation that doesn't exist.

The pilot, in my personal opinion, is correct in asserting that pulling power to idle is unsafe as it bears risk for loosing an idling engine while approaching a congested area, but I do not follow the thesis of this being a potential violation of regulations. Maybe a misunderstanding? When push comes to shove, any power setting that allows the pilot to stay in compliance with 91.13a will be just about good enough for other cases it's whatever powersetting the pilot feels he needs to use to keep the plane safe. Can a reduced power approach be done safely? Yes. Can a pilot be forced to operate his aircraft in this way? Absolutely not.

Like in most cases and in most positive scenarios, good neighbors don't settle their issues by threats, legal texts or quoting of a regulation to force the other party to its knees. Communication goes a very long way. Informing oneself about seaplanes rather than assuming things will do the rest and help keep things even and courteous. Seek common ground and work + talk with each other.

I'd appreciate if some others add any other considerations in helping our friend here to get a better idea about what it means to "obey the rules" vs. "being a good neighbor". Those things are often very very different balls of wax. I'd suggest to sit down with the pilot (in a conflict free setting) and to state that the community (not at large, but only those who actually take offense to the practice) would like to see if its possible to go back to how things were done in the past. As said above, I would be hard-pressed to find a seaplane pilot completely unwilling to adjust and adapt to the needs of a community as long as the demands are reasonable and not set in stone.

In any case, there is nothing in the books (unless there is a published noise abatement procedure) that obligates the pilot to do anything other than keeping the aircraft and passengers safe. Even if there is a published noise abatement procedure, compliance will always depend on the pilots judgment. Cooperation and communication would seem prudent, rather than ignoring the use permit, which will call residents to the roll in complaining about noise more often...

Hope this helps.

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 1:34 pm
by KlausNW
I want to pass a law that forbids high winds, heavy rain and thunder storms. They're noisy and cause all kinds of damage to my beautiful trees.

Any Seaplane that is doing power off landings are just asking for trouble. One of these days someone is going to get in the way of the plane and the engine won't spool up fast enough to allow a go around.

So many times a boater, swimmer, diver, logs or wildlife appears out of seemingly nowhere.
What do you do if a gust of wind hits you while you're being a good neighbor?

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 2:59 pm
by jjbaker
Thanks for the feedback, Klaus.

I've added another circumstance that makes an approach under some power necessary.

    1. Assure engine is responsive to power changes
    2. Avoid unnecessary cooling and spark plug fouling, for potential go around
    3. Reduce spool up time where short bursts of power are needed (wind, turbulence, boats, swimmers, wildlife)
    4. Any glassy water landing will require the use of some power, as well

*What is Glassy Water?*

Considering that non seaplane pilots read this post, glassy water is a very smooth, mirror like water surface that requires a different approach technique in which the aircraft is flown in a very shallow and very precise, nose up attitude - descent, carrying power all the way to safe touchdown on the water. This is due to the pilots inability to determine the aircraft's exact height over the water.

4 Safety Relevant reasons to fly approaches under some power. All within reason to fall under the "except when necessary" clause of the use agreement.

Nevertheless, it's been done without causing upset neighbors for 35 years.

Is it new neighbors, elevated sensitivities or can the pilot really do something proactively to help?

More ideas/ feedback welcome!

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 4:11 pm
We land and I teach flight students variable power on and power off (idle) approaches to landing both sea and land as desired and as is prudent with proactive training and flight ops. Noise while descending is minimal in any event.

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:57 pm
by TriPacer
I think that's the biggest surprise to me - that noise would be an issue upon approach and landing at all. I perform power off, soft field landings for the most part (glide in and use power to arrest the decent when a couple feet off the water), and I've been told that I surprise the crap out of the people on the lake where I land since no one ever hears me coming in. Then again I'm just in a 172, which isn't terribly loud to begin with.

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:46 pm
by RKittine
The new 2016 Prius will be required to have a noise (owner selectable) for speeds under 18 mph because on battery mode, no one can hear them.
Agree with the other posters too that low power on approaches are pretty quiet anyway.


Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:00 pm
by widgeon5
Do these airplanes ever take off? The noise they make on landing with any power setting would seem to be a non-issue compared with takeoff.

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2015 2:38 pm
by TriPacer
Ha! Maybe this is where the majority of the seaplane fleet is hiding!

Re: Power Off Approaches For Noise Abatement vs. Regulations

Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 4:26 pm
by jjbaker
I think this thread did not create the kind of responses it was intended to solicit.

Pilot X seems to remain stubborn on the issue - more talking is the new plan.

Maybe they launch the Beaver by rubber band?

One would think departures are more of a nuisance but then again, departures are kind of necessary in order to really complain about the approach noise.

Way beyond my level of intellect, obviously...

Thanks for playing and trying to help.
I am sure we'll hear more about this once its too late to fix.