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FAA Sees No Violations After Gripes About Daredevil Pilots

March 20, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Despite safety complaints by some Coto de Caza residents, the FAA has concluded that daredevil stunt pilots operating nearby are following the law and pose no risk.

Among the residents' complaints was one recent incident in which they said pilots dipped and spun above their rooftops, releasing red smoke.

But Federal Aviation Administration officials said inspectors have investigated the complaints and concluded that the pilots are flying in canyon airspace designated for aerobatic maneuvers and not over the rooftops.

"I understand why the residents are concerned," said Bob Wood, an FAA safety inspector based in Long Beach. "But, in my opinion, it is a noise and nuisance complaint, not a safety complaint."

Several years ago, competitive aerobatic pilots were asked to stay out of the crowded airspace over the ocean and instead fly above Gobernadora Canyon, near the gated community.

"We've certainly made an effort to inform aerobatic pilots that they should not fly over homes," Wood said. "And from what we have seen, they are flying legally."

A homeowners association said a handful of residents have complained about the stunt pilots, who also do dogfighting routines, for more than a year. Last year, the association wrote letters to the FAA and county Supervisor Tom Wilson, asking that the flying area be rezoned to prohibit such flights.

Steve Plochocki, who moved into Coto de Caza's sprawling South Knoll community nearly a year ago, said he doesn't think the FAA is taking the residents' concerns seriously.

"I think they think we're a bunch of whiny rich people," Plochocki said. "But we simply don't want these recreational aircrafts going straight up in the air, cutting their engines and then doing reckless free falls above our houses."

Given the heightened concerns about terrorist acts, some wonder whether the noisy planes -- especially when releasing colored smoke -- unnecessarily frighten residents.

"I'm watching planes fly by my house spewing red and orange smoke," Plochocki said. "It seems like this is some kind of sick joke."

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