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When Your Airspace Isn't Yours

The plane was flying way too low. It made a pass over my vehicle and just over the tops of the tall trees lining the gravel road, where it fell abruptly and out of sight. Slightly alarmed, I sped up to see where it had gone, wondering if it could be in trouble.

Wondering what it was doing so very close to our family home.

I hadn't cleared the tree line yet when the small aircraft popped up again, circling back to repeat the process, rising and turning vertically, then dipping and hiding low and out of sight again. I reached our gate and got out of my car, hands on my hips, as if that would help, willing the thing to stop practicing maneuvers over our home and to go away. It was undeterred, naturally, and I watched it circle over our pond and across our west fields, come back across our south pastures, skim our roof, and then plunge low over the back side of the neighbors' home on our north side.

It seemed as if I could reach up and touch a wing if I were standing on the roof of our home.

What on earth was it doing? And why was it doing it over our house?

I wanted to scream at the pilot, to tell him to leave us alone, to practice his stunts elsewhere. Who did he think he was?

I wanted to tell him he should know better than to fly under 500 feet. When I flew in Southern California to report traffic on the state’s interminable highways, I was always reminded to stay high, to use binoculars if need be. The higher one is in the air, the better the chances of recovery should a problem happen. Safe flying happens at altitudes of 500 feet or higher.

This Red Baron seemed to be acting irresponsibly in my airspace and I was angry about it. He was most assuredly well below 500 feet.

I guess I was a little afraid too, to be honest. Thoughts of plane crashes into homes, the likes of Howard Hughes', and so many others (just Google it) in the middle of the day, especially with my child inside, hit me all at once.

That plane could careen into my house!

Or bust up in a field with the possibility of injury to my animals.

Is it just me that thinks up such horrible scenarios--that planes flying low over my head are in danger of hitting me or my home? Is it just me that’s had dreams of planes falling from the sky and careening toward me?

Okay, so I’ve had a bit of a history to this end, and now is not the time for the re-telling of that story.

Suffice it to say I still have airborne issues. My father was killed in a plane crash. I’ve had my own emergency landing. I’ve lost colleagues in air disasters. I’ve had dreams at night of planes falling out of the sky on me.

And yet, I still fly myself. I enjoy flying.

I just don't care to be standing under trouble.

Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board indicate commercial flights are to blame for the majority of aviation fatalities--97% of aviation fatalities occur in general aviation. ABC News recently reported an average of five small plane crashes each day in this country, resulting in about 500 deaths annually. Five per day!

Evidently, I cannot be the only one who is sometimes concerned about what happens overhead. We've reason to be concerned.

And shouldn’t the airspace above and around my home should be safe, for heaven’s sake? Especially way out here in the country?

I'm not talking about flying as equal to the Blue Angels practice for airshows. When I lived in San Diego near Miramar Naval Air Station, I loved to see them buzz over the top of the small mountain behind my house. It gave me chills in a good way. So did parking under the landing area at Lindberg field with my children to be under the bellies of the planes landing. Here in Kansas, even sitting on the front porch looking south to watch a crop duster spray our neighbors' fields when the kids were little was fun. When the plane we were watching wasn't flying over our property at impossibly low angles.

And I wasn't as aware of those chemicals as I am now.

And that's when it occurs to me. This guy isn't clowning around. He's dusting crops.

He's flying over our property, pulling up and coming around again and again to dip down low over our front yard, buzz past the top of our roof, over the tall grass, each stem and tassel. Every animal. All, apparently, because he's laying down chemicals.

Crop dusting planes are permitted to fly lower to distribute chemicals.

And there is no way to make your property a no-fly zone. All airspace is part of the US Airspace System.

In short, you may own your land but you don’t own the air around it. I Googled it.

So, I’ll have to put up with it, I guess. It doesn’t mean I have to like it, though. It doesn’t mean I won’t be out of my vehicle and flailing my arms on occasion. It doesn't mean I won't be praying through it.

And remembering that a promise made is a promise kept, when made by the One who owns airspace and everything else.

That plane wasn't coming down over my property. God wasn't going let that happen. I may cross my arms over my head, I may flail and wave and yell at what's overhead, but I don't have any right to what's above me.

Though the matter of chemicals sprayed into that space is topic for another day too.

I'm going to inhale deeply every time I step outside to enjoy my space. I might wait a few days, however.

Whenever trouble comes, and it will, whether it's overhead, underneath, or all around, whether it dives for me or is sprayed all around me I will be safely tucked under a Wing, to be sure.

While awaiting another rainbow, in various shapes and forms, like the one I took here from the south side of my property. I may not own the airspace, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying it on occasion.


Kansas City, Kansas l jm@jmhuxley.com

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