Parasailing - Flight Safety and Rules
August 1, 2015
Last summer, there were two incidents where aircraft towing banners (banner tows) collided with parasail rigs aloft that were being towed by small passenger vessels. Fortunately, there were no passenger injuries, only property damage, but these incidents could have resulted in serious injury or a fatality. This MSIB outlines the applicable regulations and provides guidance to promote safety of parasailing while operating with passengers aloft in the vicinity of banner tow or other aircraft operations.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates both parasail and banner tow flight operations. The U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) regulates small passenger vessels that conduct parasail operations, however, does not have dedicated regulations applicable to parasailing equipment or flight, therefore, does not regulate those specific aspects of passenger vessel operations. To avoid the risk of collision and/or near misses with other aircraft, parasail operators are reminded to maintain awareness of aircraft flying within their proximity and to ensure parasail flight is conducted within the altitude limits set by the FAA. Furthermore, given that parasail vessels are limited, both in their ability to maneuver and in maneuvering the parasail aloft, vessel operators are reminded to be especially proactive and vigilant in maintaining passenger safety aloft while in the vicinity of aircraft, such as banner planes. Be advised that the banner-in-tow, attached to a banner plane, may hang 100 - 150 feet below the banner plane itself, and, the pilot may not be able to see the parasail aloft due to there being a blind spot directly ahead of and below the plane. Passenger safety while in parasail flight is of utmost concern to both agencies, and the aforementioned incidents give reason to recap the rules governing both parasail and banner tow flight (see enclosures 1 and 2).
The FAA concluded that parasails and parasail operations are subject to regulations applicable to kites under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 101, and, therefore, has prescribed certain operating (flight) limitations and notice and marking requirements. parasail operators who need to deviate from these limitations and requirements must request and receive approved waivers for parasail flight from the nearest FAA Service Center (see enclosure 1). Commonly requested and waived regulations include 14 CFR 101.13 (a)(4), 14 CFR 101.15, and 14 CFR 101.17.
Additionally, when requesting waivers, parasail operators should maintain a copy of their waiver request as evidence of submission. This may be used for compliance purposes until the waiver arrives. To promote maritime and aviation safety, parasail and banner tow operators, who fly within common geographic areas, are encouraged to be proactive in meeting with each other through regular safety meetings, especially before the start of each operating season.
For questions regarding this matter, contact the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance, Domestic Vessels