Resident concerned with 'experimental' planes flying over homes

Matt Algarin
There are many varieties of experimental or homebuilt planes that can be purchased and constructed in ones backyard. These aircraft must still be inspected and approved for flight by the FAA.

Whether he's sitting inside his home or out in his back yard, Mike Weger says the buzz of "drone-like" planes taking off and landing at the Destin Airport is a nuisance.

"You can be outside in your backyard and you can't even have a conversation," the Indian Lake resident told The Log. "I called up there and they said there were experimental airplanes practicing. It's a constant problem."

After a particularly active Sunday morning, Weger contacted city officials in Destin, airport officials, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, and Sen. Bill Nelson about his concerns. He says the operation is not only a noise issue, but a safety concern as well.

“Since they are ‘practicing’ their take-off and landings, they only get a few hundred feet above our house and then turn and land; and then start all over again,” he wrote in a letter to the officials.

While Weger is unsure of who is actually flying these planes, Bill Blackford, general manager of Destin Jet, said the aircraft belong to private owners.

"They are totally safe," Blackford told The Log.

According to the FAA and the Experimental Aircraft Association, experimental planes are oftentimes standard aircraft, they are just not built on FAA-certified assembly lines. These planes, which still must receive an airworthiness certificate from the FAA, can be built in someone's backyard or in a workshop.

Experimental aircraft must be flown by a licensed pilot and can only be flown for recreational purposes. These planes follow common testing and maintenance programs, much like any other aircraft.

Based on statistics from the FAA, there were a total of 50 fatal aviation accidents nationwide in 2012 that were attributed to home-built planes; 73 associated with experimental planes; and 263 incidents total. Those numbers very closely reflected what was recorded in 2011.

Ideally, Weger told The Log he would like to see the planes take off and land over Choctawhatchee Bay, instead of populated areas.

"That way, if they crash — and they do crash — they are not going to do it over people's homes," he said.

As for the aircraft altering their flight patterns to reduce flying over homes, Blackford said take-offs are based on a variety of factors, one including wind.