Aircraft altitude is established by Federal law, Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations Section 91.119, which governs flight, states:

“Except when necessary for take-off or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

  • Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
  • Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.
  • Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.”

It is important to be aware of two aspects of this regulation. First, most aircraft operating in the vicinity of SFB are in the process of landing or taking off, thus this regulation does not apply. Second, helicopters are specifically exempt from this Federal regulation.