Landing in the grass.... At an airport

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Skymac, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. Skymac

    Skymac Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Does anyone know any FAA / ADO issues with using an area of good grass turf that is parallel to the existing hard surface runway? Non-Towered, Class E airport. The area has perfect grass and no transition issues from the runway to the parallel grass surrounding the runway. Just looking at a regulation standpoint. I believe the airport manager is just making things up out of thin air on the fly.

    I can’t find anything out there that says this is a unsafe or illegal practice. Not that it matters but it’s for an aircraft that will have a tail skid instead of a tailwheel and it’s natural home is turf.

    Any thoughts or people to talk to would be helpful.
     
  2. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    I would walk that entire area 5-6 times to be sure there wasn't anything there, and even then I still wouldn't do it. If the manager says no, whether he's making stuff up or not, it's no.

    What about landing between hangars, no regulation against that either.
     
  3. Caramon13

    Caramon13 Pattern Altitude

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    I don't think the FAA cares. What I would check with is whoever owns the land (not the manager). Also would want to know if the land is used for purposes other than aviation, and if a person will ever be on that land at a time when planes are landing. That's a risk. Unless they announce that that area is now potentially an active runway, you may ruin some poor mower's day.

    People land on grass in Alaska and the FAA doesn't care, so I don't think the material is the problem. People land on beaches too and sandbars, etc.

    Your insurance company might ask questions though if you bend the metal, like why did you choose to land on some random strip of grass that isn't REALLY a runway when a perfectly paved runway is right next to it. And they also might not care if they already insure you for landing on grass.

    I used 48X here in Sarasota all the time for refueling because gas was cheap, but that is an actual grass field not some sliver of grass next to a paved runway. I love landing on grass runways, but I'd have second thoughts about putting down just anywhere in any non-emergency situation in the planes that I fly. For planes that are specifically designed for backwoods operations or STOL types, may not be a big deal.
     
  4. cgrab

    cgrab Pattern Altitude

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    At FDK the tow plane lands in the grass next to 30/12 along with the gliders. Really scary to be on final on the cross runway and have a NORDO glider cut you off.
     
  5. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    Really not much they can say as long as you aren't disrupting normal airport traffic or impacting the safety of anyone. If you have an incident though, you will have some explaining to do. Almost every airport I have spent time at people land in the grass.
     
  6. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Hidden hazards, like drain culverts, soft spots from recent rains, broken mower blades, and other things might be present. Walk it first. The manager might not want the hassle
     
  7. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member

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    My thought on this is to start from the question of whether you can land on a taxiway at an airport without a control tower, on the theory that taxiways are more regulated than the grass margins of the runway beyond the runway lights. My logic is this: If there is a rule about landing on taxiways, it will either say "areas other than runways" or "taxiways" and you'll know if the grass is covered or not. If there is no rule against landing on taxiways, then we have to dig deeper to see if there is a rule against landing on the grass but it seems unlikely that they would prohibit landing on grass areas but fail to say anything about taxiways.

    Here's a thread elsewhere discussing the taxiway landing question: https://forums.jetcareers.com/threads/legal-to-land-on-taxiway.77334/ There is a link to an approach plate with a supposedly interesting and relevant note, but unfortunately the link is broken. Searching for the filename brings up a 2013 version of the plate for GPS RWY 31 at KMWL, but the but the thread is from 2008 and the note appears to have disappeared in the intervening 5 years. The thread does conclude that there is no federal regulation other than 91.13 that says anything about where you land other than at airports with operating control towers.

    Another thought is this: Helicopters don't have to land on the runway. What makes an airplane different from a helicopter? You might think that "airplanes need a runway to land and helicopters can't taxi very well because of those skids" is a good answer to that question, but all you end up with is a continuum with helicopters on skids on one end and airliners on the other end, and a plane with a tailskid somewhere in between them. With a tailskid, I think it's arguably more careful to land in the grass next to the runway than on the paved surface, not just for you but also for other aircraft since you are not going to simply pivot and taxi off of the runway.

    You will need to be cautious about state and local rules. I don't know if the courts have addressed whether the FAA's regulation of airports preempts all local regulation about where on an airport you can land an airplane but, if nobody has litigated that issue already, I do know that a new tailskid costs less than the legal fees to go to federal court and find out. Not to mention you'd be paying a lawyer to have fun trying to keep a straight face. "Judge, the FAA regulates public-use airports and preempts all local regulations. The FAA does not have a rule against landing on the taxiway, grass areas, ramp, or anywhere else on the airport that my client darn well pleases. Therefore, this local ordinance that says airplanes must land on the runway is not only completely ridiculous and unreasonable but also legally unenforceable."
     
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  8. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    What Plane? Ain’t got nuthin to do with your question, just curious. There was another thread all about this not long ago. Someone will find it. I’m to lazy
     
  9. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Talk to airport management and get their permission.

    As a rule, forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission, but if you’re planning to do it more than once, forgiveness only goes so far.
     
  10. geezer

    geezer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    A member of my flying club exited to the grass to allow an incoming plane to use the runway. Unfortunately, the nose wheel entered a groundhog hole, the prop struck the ground hard, and stopped the engine. Don't ask what that cost. The pilot kept the non repairable prop, hanging it on the rec room wall, a reminder of the size of our deductible. I wanted to buy it from him for a front bumper on my truck, but was unwilling to pay $500, the deductible amount (that was half a century ago). I had a certification for grass strips in my logbook, and without it, our insurance did not allow grass landings except in emergencies. Designated grass landing strips are generally quite well maintained, but it is necessary to use the center of the apparent strip for the smoothest landing. Avoid them after a rain, as they can be amazing soft.

    Well maintained grass is easy on the tires and pleasant, but the traction for braking is well below what is possible on pavement. Taking off is near normal if cut short, but wet, tall grass can more than double the takeoff run, and can get tangled into wheel pants.
     
  11. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack En-Route

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    In his original post, he said, "Just looking at a regulation standpoint. I believe the airport manager is just making things up out of thin air on the fly.", which leads me to believe he's already been denied permission.

    An airport manager has a lot of authority and can make up rules. Our airport manager is about to put out a NOTAM banning helicopters from doing 'running or roll-on' landings. Something about his newly resurfaced runway being damaged.
     
  12. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Ah...missed that.

    I don’t think “the consensus at POA says you’re wrong” is going to change the manager’s mind. About all that’s left that I can see is lawyering up and spending money.
     
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  13. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Pretty common at a number of airports near me. But, depends on airport management.
    Same as use of taxiway when runway is under construction. Or at Oshkosh.

    The FAA won't let you count the grass as a parallel runway, but that doesn't preclude someone from landing on it.
     
  14. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack En-Route

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    At our airport, we follow your philosophy. We ask forgiveness on a lot of issues. If we ask permission, the answer always seems to be no!
     
  15. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    I did that at my last job...I’d ask the GM if I could do something (either in person or via email) and essentially get no response. When I called him on that, he said “you should assume a lack of response to be a ‘no’.”

    I then changed my wording... “any problem with me doing...?” and did whatever I wanted.:D
     
  16. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    The FAA doesn't care if you land in the grass alongside the runway. The airport management may or may not allow it, and sometimes it's in the A/FD ("operation on unpaved surfaces prohibited"). My home field doesn't care, and I usually land on the grass between the runway and taxiway, unless somebody's on the taxiway. Saves wear and tear on the tires. One guy I know with bushwheels on his Maule figures that every landing on pavement costs him $12.00 in tire wear.
     
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  17. Mike Blackburn

    Mike Blackburn Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I’m sure this is a liability issue. They can’t give you permission to land on the grass because they’d potentially be liable if you break your plane.

    Of course, landing on taxiways is fine, especially if your name is Harrison Ford.
     
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  18. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I’m sure they need it on the record they said no to keep their Insurance Carrier happy. I doubt if their policy says they have to prosecute anyone that goes ahead and does it anyway. Therefore they can be forgiving. If something bad happens when you do it, insurance will pay them, then they come after you for reimbursement. It has a name. Subrogation.
     
  19. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    I’ve known enough insurance people to be very skeptical when somebody says “our insurance doesn’t allow it”.
     
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  20. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    I do it all the time at my airport. Never asked permission and nobody has ever mentioned anything about it to me but lately I've been seeing other people's tracks in the grass. I've been running 26 inch Airstreaks for the past year and they really don't like pavement much plus they'll run right over Gopher holes.
     
  21. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    Drop them a note - "Unless otherwise directed not to, I will..."

    I wouldn't, but if your risk tolerance is higher than mine, go for it.
     
  22. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    Ask the airport manager first. There may be hazards you are not aware of, like soft or mushy turf, drainage troughs,uneven ground that could cause a prop strike, or other items you may not know about. Having said that, we have a perfectly good grass verges at our airport that the glider club uses to land their aircraft. It is not the whole length of the runway (crossing taxiways and or AWOS tower are issues) but sufficient for certain aircraft when ground conditions permit, and the airport management will allow its use.
     
  23. Skymac

    Skymac Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I will keep the thread updated. I’m well aware of “check for holes” etc... I was asking on the basis of regulations.

    The airport manager supposedly asked at the ADO for the area, and the ADO shot down using any grass. I’m not buying it, our board and manager only know the word “no” and just don’t know aviation that well, it’s pretty sorry.

    There is another airport that has a marked grass strip between the runway and taxi that I just found out about, and there are no notams or info on it on an AF/D so I think some smoke is being blown.
     
  24. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The manager may have asked if it could be used as a "runway". The answer will be no - the grass is not far enough away to qualify as a parallel runway and is not inside the runway markings for it to be part of the existing runway, etc.. That's a different question than "is there a regulation prohibiting someone from landing on the grass" and you get a different answer.
     
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  25. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    At GBR they have paved and grass runways.
    I land in the grass/gravel shoulder alongside the runway.
    Just don't hit the landing/runway lights.
     
  26. Lindberg

    Lindberg En-Route

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    Not generally prohibited. I even asked tower when I was based at a towered field, and was told that, operations permitting, I'd be cleared at my own risk.
     
  27. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Talk to the ADO yourself and find out what was actually asked and what the actual answer was.

    Meanwhile if the manager said no, having a manager as an enemy isn’t usually a wise idea. But that’s up to you.

    No harm in talking to the person he said he talked to, though... they’ll answer your call as much as his. You may find the question asked was the wrong one or the answer to be incorrect as far as the law goes.... then you have a new dilemma... whether or not it’s worth the next discussion with the manager about it... ;)
     
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  28. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    All the grass at FDK is in good shape, not just the glider grass runway next to 12-30. I made great use of that during one of the AOPA open houses to clear the runway faster than the (then) temporary tower was expecting.