Answer in a Breeze


We received the following request (in a much longer form) but this is a summation of what Rob was requesting. “Regarding the low-flying personal aircraft hazards and the creation of constant noise pollution in Ventura I am kindly requesting you to find out what our legal rights are for low-flying aircraft. It seems the skies are getting more and more congested over our neighborhoods putting public safety at risk.”

Respectfully Rob Lewis.

We sent this request to our contributing writer Sheli Ellsworth whose husband Jeff is a pilot to secure an answer. Jeff is professional pilot who has been flying since 1989 including 20 years for the US Navy.


The minimum safe altitude for aircraft operations depends on few factors including where the aircraft is operating.  According to the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR 91.119) regardless of where the aircraft is operated, the altitude should be sufficient for an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface in the event of an engine failure.  Over a congested area like the city of Ventura an aircraft shall be flown no lower than 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a 2,000 foot radius below the aircraft.  Over the water or sparsely populated areas the aircraft cannot be operated closer than 500 feet from any person, vessel, vehicle or structure. These minimum altitudes do not apply to helicopters, powered parachutes or hang gliders.

 Altitudes can be very difficult to judge by eye.  Jets routinely cross paths with 1,000 feet of vertical separation up at altitude.  I can promise that will get your full attention; it looks like they’re coming right at you until you get used to it.  But in airplanes just like cars, boats and motorcycles, sometimes poor judgement prevails.  The Federal Aviation Regulations also prohibit Careless or Reckless Operation of an aircraft which endanger the life or property of another person.  If you see an aircraft operating in a reckless manor or wish to make a noise complaint, call the Ventura County Department of Airports Office at 805 388-4497

Do you have a question? Send it to [email protected] and we will try to get an answer.

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