FAA official details rules after reports of low-flying planes over La Jolla


There have been reports recently of a low-flying plane or planes in the La Jolla area.

One resident, who recently reported seeing several single-engine craft flying near the Cove not far above the 939 Coast Blvd. condos, said he complained to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ian Gregor, spokesman for the agency, said Friday there are rules required of private planes, as well as commercial planes, regarding how low they can fly.

“Over any populated area, an airplane has to fly at least 1,000 feet above the nearest obstacle,” he said. “If there’s a 200-foot building, the plane has to be at least 1,200 feet up.”

If a plane is flying over open water, Gregor said pilots are required to be “at least 500 feet above the surface and no closer than 500 feet to any person or vessel in the water.”

Though it is not required, Gregor said the FAA encourages pilots to file flight plans with the airport they depart from.

“It makes search and rescues a lot easier when they (authorities) know where you planned to fly,” he noted.

Gregor added incidents involving low-flying planes are difficult to investigate because they require witnesses.

“But there have been cases where we’ve been able to take action against pilots based on numerous eyewitness accounts,” he said.

Anyone witnessing a plane flying too low can report to the San Diego Flight Standards District Office at (858) 502-9882. If possible, try to the get plane’s ID number that can be seen on the tail.