Leave the flying to the professionals. That’s the message coming from the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) out of concern for spectator safety and the safety of air show pilots who fly nearly 10,000 performances at over 300 North American events annually.
Supporting the FAA’s “No Drone Zone,” “Leave Your Drone at Home,” and “Know Before You Fly” initiatives, ICAS wants air show spectators and those in an air show venue’s surrounding area to understand that flying an unmanned aircraft in unauthorized air space is not just illegal, but unnecessarily puts people at risk.
“Even one close call is too many,” said John Cudahy, ICAS president and CEO. “While performing, air show pilots require total concentration and precision. If a drone interferes with an aircraft’s flight path, that’s a distraction that could have disastrous consequences. If a drone actually collides with a plane while that plane is performing an aerobatic maneuver, the result could be catastrophic for the pilot and the viewing public.”
North American air shows are highly regulated and regarded as the safest in the world. Air show pilots go through a battery of medical assessments, aerobatic competency evaluations and certifications before being able to perform. There hasn’t been a spectator fatality in North America since 1952, according to ICAS officials.
Pilot reports of unmanned aircraft increased dramatically in 2015, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014, to more than 650 by August of 2015. The FAA in recent months has sent out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal. Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.
“We want everyone at air shows to enjoy their experience without having to worry about or experience the repercussions of a drone-related accident,” said Cudahy. “There are plenty of outlets to see great air show video footage and photos taken by professionals. Leave the flying and photography to the professionals and come see the air show in person.”
The FAA is leading a public outreach campaign to promote safe and responsible use of unmanned aircraft systems and offers a digital toolkit with downloadable outreach materials to federal, state, and other partners to educate unmanned aircraft operators that flying in certain areas is prohibited.