Stunt Plane Video Draws Safety Questions - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Stunt Plane Video Draws Safety Questions

Pilot says apparent near miss with photographer on YouTube video was planned stunt



    The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a low-flying stunt at Lancaster Regional Airport within a few feet of a person on the runway. It was done in hopes of creating a viral video. (Published Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013)

    Video of what appears to show a photographer's close call with a stunt airplane is raising safety questions.

    The YouTube video shows a stunt airplane owned by Lancaster-based Viper Airshows nearly slamming into a person with a camera on the runway of the Lancaster Regional Airport. A person on an all-terrain vehicle can be seen riding around in the background.

    But the pilot says the video, which was recorded Saturday, was a well-planned stunt to produce a viral video.

    "This was a structured shoot, and some people don't understand that," said the pilot, Jason Newberg.

    He said the incident was not an accident.

    "All of the people at the practice were briefed and were part of the crew," Newberg said.

    Lancaster City Manager Opal Mauldin-Robertson said the pilot has an aerobatic waiver with the Federal Aviation Administration that allows him to perform practice routines for his stunt shows at the airport, provided he does so during the day in good weather, stays within specifically outlined boundaries and follows other safety measures.

    "As long as he's in compliance with what's required of him in the FAA waiver, he doesn't need to come in and say, 'I'm going to do a practice run,'" she said Tuesday after viewing the video.

    Mauldin-Robertson said she confirmed Tuesday that the pilot's special waiver was still valid and was on file at the airport.

    But the FAA said the document shows a November 2012 expiration date on the front.

    "Even with a waiver, there a requirement that people on the ground not be endangered," FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford told NBC 5 by email.

    Aviation safety expert Denny Kelly told NBC 5 after watching the video that it was not OK to fly so close to someone on a runway.

    "There would be no time that would be the proper thing to do," he said.

    The Lancaster city manager said the city had been in contact with the FAA and is awaiting its investigation.

    Mark Divita, the airport manager, said told NBC 5 on Tuesday that Newberg had told him that he posted the video on the Internet to drum up attention and promote his upcoming stunt shows.

    It was not immediately clear who posted the video, which does not appear on Viper Airshows' YouTube channel.

    NBC 5's Ben Russell and Ken Kalthoff contributed to this report.