3/6/2019: MSIB 002-19 – Parasailing navigation rules and flight safety

The Office of Navigation Systems released Marine Safety Information Bulletin 002-19, “Parasailing – Navigation Rules and Flight Safety,” to address operations of vessels pulling parasail wings and to promote the safety of passengers aloft in the vicinity of aircraft.

As one state defines it, parasailing is an “activity in which an individual is transported or carried aloft by a parachute, sail, or other material attached to a towline which is towed by a vessel.” The vessel’s movement creates the lift to keep the parasail wing aloft.

The Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulate the vessels that may tow parasailers and flight activities, respectively. The Coast Guard regulates small passenger vessels and other vessels that conduct parasail operations. This does not include oversight of parasailing equipment, safety of passengers aloft or interference with aircraft or banners being towed by aircraft. The FAA regulates parasail flight activities as well as aircraft and banners towed by aircraft.

This popular activity involves two areas of risk particular to this specialized industry: (1) safe navigation on the water, and (2) the safety of the passenger(s) aloft and the danger of mid-air strikes with other parasails or low-flying aircraft. This MSIB addresses Navigation Rules relevant to the operations of the vessel pulling the parasail wing and provides information to promote safety while operating with passengers aloft in the vicinity of aircraft that may or may not be towing banners.

Coast Guard Equities
Consistent with regulations, the vessel operator is responsible for the vessel’s safe navigation and adherence to the Navigation Rules. Generally, the vessels pulling a parasail are highly maneuverable. This, however, does not prevent the operator from determining and declaring their status as restricted in the ability to maneuver. If the vessel pulling the parasail wing does not display the lights or shapes prescribed in Rule 27 (“Vessels Not Under Command or Restricted in Their Ability to Maneuver”), then it has no special conditions or consideration; it operates as a power driven vessel underway per Rule 18 (“Responsibility Between Vessels”).

Additionally, Rule 6 (“Safe Speed”) always applies. A vessel operator should take into account traffic density when determining if it is safe to conduct parasailing operations. He or she should be cognizant of the maneuvering characteristics of the vessel when persons are aloft, including minimum safe stopping distance and turning radius.

Passenger safety while aloft in parasail flight is of utmost concern. A vessel pulling a parasail wing may be affected in its ability to safely maneuver and guide the parasail wing. A vessel operator should be proactive and vigilant in maintaining passenger safety aloft, including considering that aircraft pilots may not be able to see a parasail wing and that the aircraft’s banner-in-tow will likely be at an altitude significantly lower than the aircraft itself.

FAA Equities
The FAA sets altitude limits for parasails and aircraft towing banners to avoid the risk of collision or near misses. Parasail wings and operations are subject to flight regulations applicable to kites under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 101. The FAA has prescribed operating (flight) limitations, notice, and marking requirements. Parasail operators may request waivers from the nearest FAA Service Center (see MSIB enclosures 1 and 2). Additionally, the FAA published an Advisory reminding pilots that special attention is warranted to reduce midair conflicts (MSIB enclosure 3).

To promote maritime and aviation safety, parasail and banner tow operators who operate within common geographic areas, are encouraged to be proactive in coordinating their activities and increasing their awareness of each other’s affairs.

For full details, view or download the MSIB and its enclosures.

For questions regarding this matter, contact the Office of Navigation Systems at 202-372-1565 during regular business hours or by email at cgnav@uscg.mil.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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