Civil Aviation Confirms that Gyrocopters Cannot Fly Below 500 Feet

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Flights in gyrocopters in Costa Rica are allowed by Civil Aviation (DGAC) in the country, but they can’t fly below 500 feet.

The Voice of Guanacaste wrote a story about a flight in a gyrocopter on the Sámara coast for the February edition.

Once the story ran on our website and social media pages, several readers expressed concerns over gyrocopters’ impact on the environment and wildlife because they fly at low heights.

Allen Víquez, inspector for Civil Aviation, explained to the Voice of Guanacaste that no aircraft, including gyrocopters, should fly below 500 feet.

Viquez said that companies must have a special permit from Civil Aviation to fly below 500 feet and a justification as to why they need to fly so low.

Yeimy Cedeño, manager of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, was one of the readers who said that these flights in gyrocopters fly “really low.”

“The minimum altitude established by Civil Aviation is 500 feet. Those flights at sea level are illegal,” Cedeño said. “They also fly over the beaches of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge and make noise, scaring visitors and stressing out the turtles with the terrible noise they make.”

This newspaper asked the pilot Jorge Muller while working on the story for the travel section and he said that the company he works for (Auto Gyro America) has all the permits necessary.

Civil Aviation confirmed this claim and said that the only two companies authorized in the country to offer gyrocopter flights are Auto Gyro and Adventure Flights.

If a resident or anyone else has a problem with it, they should contact us and we will change the route,” Muller said.

Rules Talk

“You can give a permit for a scientific investigation or a patrol, but it’s not normal for an aircraft to fly below 500 feet,” he said.

In legal terms, there is specific regulation for ultra-light aircraft (RAC 103), such as a gyrocopter, which stipulates all the rules for these kinds of aircraft, but doesn’t reference maximum or minimum altitudes. But there is an additional regulation (RAC 02) that must be followed by all types of aircraft.

“Ultra-light aircraft are regulated by RAC 02 because minimum altitudes must be defined, otherwise they would fly at whatever height they wanted. This regulation is for all types of aircraft across the country,” Viquez said.

Companies that disrespect this law are subject to financial sanctions and even revocation of their flying permits, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

Natural Damages?

Víquez, from Civil Aviation, was clear that the law and regulations don’t contain restrictions for flying over national parks or reserves in Costa Rican territory.

According to the operations inspector, flight over other areas like the Presidency, the Security Ministry and prisons.

“You can fly over national parks as long as you respect the altitudes,” Viquez said.

Cedeño, manager of the Ostional Refuge, said that there is no scientific evidence to justify the impact that these flights can have on turtles when they spawn, for example, but she said that it’s about “respecting wildlife.”

“This has been going on for a long time and we are doing everything possible to make authorities intervene,” Cedeño said.

Report It

If you feel you have been affected by these flights, or see that companies that operate gyrocopters are flying below 500 feet, you can file a report in the complaint box on Civil Aviation’s website.