Updated: Hendersonville Airport can’t identify plane that released smoke over Asheville

Still frame from Explore Asheville's 2015 promotional video
Still frame from Explore Asheville's 2015 promotional video

Updated at 5:34 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3:

The Federal Aviation Administration responded to Xpress‘ email request for any further information about the FAA’s investigation into this incident, saying, “We have nothing to add to the statement, which explained that the pilot was not operating improperly.”

Additionally, the FAA spokesperson explained, “We have no information that indicates the flight was operating in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations, so an investigation is not warranted.”

Updated at 5:06 p.m. on Thursday, April 27:

Local Facebook accounts are buzzing with questions about a small plane observed over North Asheville on the evening of Wednesday, April 26, at about 7:45 p.m.

On Thursday, Kathleen Bergen of the Federal Aviation Administration wrote in an email: “The FAA determined that an aircraft departed from Hendersonville Airport at 7:45 pm, circled over Asheville twice, then returned to the airport. The radar system could not identify the aircraft or its altitude, and the pilot did not contact air traffic control. The pilot was flying under visual flight rules and was not required to communicate with air traffic control. We cannot confirm that this is the aircraft that residents reported. FAA systems cannot identify whether aircraft are spraying.”

Xpress reached a representative of Aerolina, Inc., which operates the Hendersonville Airport, late on Thursday afternoon. The representative declined to give his name, but said that he was not present on Wednesday evening and had no idea whether a plane matching the description given to the FAA had flown out of his airport at that time. The field is a “noncontrol” airport, he said, and pilots are not required to file flight plans or reports.

The Aerolina representative declined to answer whether any spraying operations are based out of the airfield, saying that he had provided that information to the FAA. With regards to reports that the plane had a vintage appearance, the Aerolina representative said he wasn’t aware of any of the historic aircraft at the Western North Carolina Air Museum (which is located at the Hendersonville Airport) having flown yesterday evening.

Since I was among the Ashevilleans who saw the plane, it is relevant to share my observations here as we await more details:

At about 7:30, or as late as 7:45 p.m., yesterday evening, I noticed a small plane flying low above North Asheville as I walked along the stretch of Kimberly Avenue that borders the golf course of the Grove Park Inn.

The plane, which appeared to be a small, vintage aircraft with no visible markings, was flying southward, over the Charlotte Street area, releasing a trail of smoke that appeared orange in the light of the setting sun.

I first thought the pilot must be skywriting, but then almost immediately rejected that theory because the plane was flying so low. From where I walked, the plane appeared to be just above tree level.

As I watched, the smoke trail stopped and the plane flew away, banked slightly to the east as it continued its southward trajectory. Within seconds, the plane had disappeared behind the trees.

At home, I told my son about the sighting, saying how strange it had seemed to see a plane flying so low and releasing a colored trail of smoke late in the evening. Although I don’t have any particular expertise in assessing the altitude of aircraft, I estimated the plane to be flying at about 300-400 feet above the ground.

I later learned that others also were saying they had observed the strange sight. One local Facebooker wrote: “Anyone witness the small engine plane flying over 240 and spraying red fog on charlotte street that fell like red ash flakes and then the plane moved to the south end over Biltmore Mall area and sprayed a bunch more ? Several folks have witnessed this plane flying at around 200′ and it the airport has no record of it.” By shortly before noon on Thursday, the post had attracted 81 comments, many from other eyewitnesses.

One commenter wrote that her husband had seen and heard the plane from Town Mountain; she said he estimated the plane’s altitude at 700-1,000 feet. He also witnessed smoke coming from the plane: “he thought the sun being almost opposite and close to horizon was making blackish smoke glow brownish, thought at first it was a skywriter, as it passed over charlotte st. banked a wide circle and smoke appeared to stop as it went across chestnut hill neighborhood and came back across 240 headed south… he didn’t notice fallout from smoke, just dispersion…”

Some others wrote that the plane had left a red flaky residue along the Charlotte Street corridor.

No commenter on threads reviewed by Xpress reported having photos or videos of the airplane.

According to Alex Bradley, spokesperson for the Asheville Regional Airport Authority, “Pilots must communicate with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) when operating in controlled airspace. We do not have any information about this flight.”

Bradley referred Xpress to FAA Communications Manager Kathleen Bergen.

Xpress will update this post as more information is received. Please contact us at 828-251-1333 or leave a comment if you have photos, videos or information about the plane to share.

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About Virginia Daffron
Associate Editor and News Reporter. Lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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125 thoughts on “Updated: Hendersonville Airport can’t identify plane that released smoke over Asheville

  1. Amy Gordon

    How is it possible for no aviation type of authority to not know which plane this was? There is no one from Hendersonville airport who could identify this plane? No records of take offs or landings. I am just not sure we are being given a truthful or satisfactory answer from Hendersonville airport and believe that this warrants investigation

    • Virginia Daffron

      Amy, to clarify, I haven’t been able to speak with anyone from the Hendersonville Airport yet. I will update the story when I do.

      • Theresa

        You are going to have trouble getting people at HVL to comply. This comes off as a “freak out the queers and hippies” in Asheville with a chemtrail joke by conservative pilot community. The FAA on the other hand will not think it’s funny. The BB&T building has a camera array that caught this even and aircraft identification. The FAA has been notified to review this feed. From this heading, altitude, speed and identification may be concluded.

        • bsummers

          At least one of the witnesses said it had no markings. There is one red/yellow vintage crop duster (with no markings) on the WNC Air Museum website.
          http://www.westernnorthcarolinaairmuseum.com/1932-e-2-taylor-cub.html

          It looks like FAA regs allow antique or exhibition airplanes to fly without markings. But there are rules, like only flying at the site of the exhibition, and only flying after submitting a flight plan, etc. It appears that this event probably violated those restrictions.
          http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgFAR.nsf/0/CFB016AA41963A1C86256A6900512337?OpenDocument

          Not a good sign that the person answering the phone at the Hendersonville airport refused to give his name…

          • Tom

            That is not a “crop duster” and the “N” number is on the tail not visible because of the wing strut.

          • Darwin jones

            You must not have completly read the regulation. There is no such aircraft in the immediate area of Hendersonville that meets that regulation.

          • Greg Collins

            The fact that at least one person could not see small black numbers on the side of a small dark colored aircraft 100’s of feet above the viewer does not mean they are not there. My aircraft has 18″ white markings, and they are not readable above 500′. If the aircraft was being flown at a legal altitude of 1000′ agl, it would be impossible to see the markings.

          • Bwest

            Airplanes built prior to 1971 can be flown using registration numbers of 3″ height on the tail. After 1971 they must be 12″ tall and 2″ thick. The small numbers are almost impossible to see unless you’re really close

          • James L. Smith

            I am familiar with that airplane. I fly a similar aircraft, a Taylorcraft BC12-D. The Taylor Cub is NOT a crop duster and has never flown since it’s been in the WNC Air Museum. And I don’t believe any of the stories I have read here that the aircraft was “vintage,” or that it flew at an illegal altitude, or that it left a trail of toxic smoke causing respiratory distress or loss of lucid brain function in one of more of our local snowflakes.
            Furthermore, don’t be fussing at my friends at K0A7, Hendersonville Airport, for refusing to do your amusing detective work for you.

        • bsummers

          This comes off as a “freak out the queers and hippies” in Asheville with a chemtrail joke by conservative pilot community.

          If that’s the case, at the very least somebody needs to lose their license to fly, if not be thrown into prison for terrorizing a civilian population.

    • Tom

      Hendersonville is not a controlled airport and the pilot was doing nothing wrong.

    • Scott

      Amy, it’s possible because we still live in a free country. There are thousands of airports across this great country where pilots can fly their airplanes with the same freedoms you enjoy with your car. Think of it this way … you don’t file a “drive plan” and communicate with some controlling entity when you want to go somewhere, do you?

      • Beth

        Even after 911? That seems …well…irresponsible. Why do I have to take off my shoes at the airport if a terrorist can just free fly a plane ?

        • Scott

          Beth, it seems “irresponsible” because most people don’t understand that private/business aircraft do not have a comparable (and perceived) threat/risk to national security that commerical aircraft do. That is why you still have to take off your shoes/belts before boarding a 330 ton machine that carries 300+ people. Yet, in situations like this article, people quickly assume hundreds of thousands of law-abiding pilots should surrender their freedom to move about the country without Government interfence (under the farce of National Security). Why? Simply because 9/11 happened (using completely different assests)? Let’s compare and contrast … As you know, terrorists have recently used cars to commit jihad. Using the same logic, it would be “irresponsbile” for law-abiding citizens to drive a car without filing a “drive plan” with a controlling agency (wasting billions annually, like DHS/TSA currently do). Furthermore, the driver must maintain two-way communication with a “Road Traffic Controller” and their route must be tracked on radar. If the driver strays from their submitted drive plan, they must be intercepted by police and interrogated accordingly (such a slippery slope it is … guilty until proven innocent because of a perceived threat) Ok, well, it’s worth giving up our freedom in this area of our lives because the Government will keep me safe. After all, we can’t allow terrorists to freely drive cars.

          • bsummers

            OK, so take your analogy further – should there be consequences for a driver that deliberately drives on the sidewalk, or through a shopping mall? Of course. But flying below the legal height limit over a residential area, circling the area twice just to demonstrate it wasn’t accidental, you’re OK with that?

          • Scott

            bsummers, we are a country of laws. If the pilot violated Federal Aviation Regulations, he/she should be prosecuted accordingly. At no time did I suggest or imply otherwise.

          • bsummers

            Point taken. I scrolled back to the top of the thread you were responding to, and it’s clear you were only commenting on the suggestion that small private planes should be more heavily regulated than they are, not the behavior of this one pilot.

            That being said…

            There is no one from Hendersonville airport who could identify this plane?

            Of course there are many people (probably some commenting on this thread, for example), who know exactly who did this stunt, and are protecting them from the consequences. Doesn’t make the local private aviation community look very good, IMHO.

          • Scott

            bsummers, my points is the exact opposite of how you interpreted it. I do NOT support more regulations for private aviation, boating, or any other mode of transportation. Since 9/11, private aviation has been subjected to additional regulations to the point it encroaches on the very freedoms our country was founded on … all in the name of “National Security”. I find it disconcerting when commentors suggest every private flight must be tracked because it does not automatically increase public safety or ensure compliance with regulations. In doing so, the root cause of the threat is ignored and the law-abiding are the only ones impacted. Even those who don’t participate in private aviation should be concerned by increased Government regulation/interference in our lives, purely from a principle perspective. After all, it we allow it in one sector, it won’t take long before it flows into another one. Then, before we know it, we will be standing around asking “What happened? Why can’t I fart without the EPA’s approval?” I know, I know, it’s a stretch. Or is it? Certainly, this “incident” should be investigated and the FAA has a rich history of hunting down and sanctioning pilots that operate unsafely and/or violate regulations. After all, their motto is, “We’re not happy until you’re not happy.” Until then, I humbly suggest the triggered citizens of AVL put down their pitchforks and let the appropriate authorities do their jobs. And maybe, just maybe, look at it from a different perspective: 1. No one was physically harmed and 2. We live in a free country where people can still be stupid if they are so inclinded. Legal Disclaimer: I do not condone stupidity, social irresponsibility, over-reacting out of fear or paranoia, and actions by the Government to interfere/regulate our lives.

          • bsummers

            Scott, you misinterpreted my comment. I did not say that you support more regulation for private aviation. I said that you were responding to someone else’s suggestion that that should happen. Big difference. It’s clear you do not support that.

          • Scott

            bsummers, my mistake. Thank you for the clarification. Be well!

      • luther blissett

        “There are thousands of airports across this great country where pilots can fly their airplanes with the same freedoms you enjoy with your car. ”

        And every so often, one of those pilots takes advantage of those freedoms to crash into a populated area.

        http://www.pe.com/2017/02/28/3-dead-2-hospitalized-after-plane-crashes-into-riverside-house/

        http://www.11alive.com/news/local/marietta/plane-crashes-into-house-in-cobb-county/425428689

        “Tom” and others seem to enjoy yuk-yucking at non-aviators, but if you mess up in a little Cessna it typically doesn’t end well.

        • Scott

          “And every so often, one of those pilots takes advantage of those freedoms to crash into a populated area.”
          Luther … wow, nice attempt to skew the narrative into left field. Anyone with common sense can understand how these tragic accidents were just that … accidents. In the same way cars accidentally crash into the living rooms of homes. Sadly, it happens and most often it is not intentional as you suggest.

          • Scott

            Come on bsummers, there are far more articles on cars being intentionally driven into homes. Let’s keep the conversation on topic, shall we? :)

          • bsummers

            I’m just supporting Luther’s point that there’s potentially a huge difference between someone who misbehaves with a plane vs. someone with a car. A plane flying overhead doing something that’s clearly wrong sets a whole lot of people off a lot more than something similar with a car. I hope they find this pilot.

          • luther blissett

            “Anyone with common sense can understand how these tragic accidents were just that … accidents.”

            I’m not suggesting that they were intentional: “mess up” should be the giveaway there. Read the NTSB reports for light aircraft crashes and you’ll see a mixture of mechanical problems and momentary distraction and overconfidence, even among pilots with decades of experience and hundreds of flying hours. And if something goes wrong in a Cessna, then physics (and chemistry) take over.

          • 30p

            Sick of the “don’t limit my freedoms” arguments. Truckers file log reports. Cars have visible license plates and are easily identifiable. You are not losing a freedom if you take a few minutes to register your flight plan. This jerk sprayed something we cannot identify. Could be a poison that harms people. HvL has a responsibility as an airport to track flights in and out in the event something like this happens. They might not be able to stop this person, but the FAA can use the report to track them down. This guy could have poisoned hundreds of people with that “spray”. You are ok with that as long as you can keep your personal freedom to not have to file a flight plan? Selfish and reckless.

        • Larry

          Luther, many more people are killed every year by cars and trucks used as weapons than by single-engine airplanes. By far.

          • luther blissett

            Well, that’s because there are 200,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States and about 250,000,000 cars and trucks.

          • James L. Smith

            Which reminds me. A decade or so ago I was participating in flying Young Eagles at Hendersonville Airport. That’s where EAA members fly kids for free and let them enjoy the thrill of flight. A mother walked up and began feeling around on the wings of a fabric-covered aircraft. “These wings seem awfully fragile and weak for my son to fly in. I don’t think I want him to fly in it.” The boy had just been assigned to that aircraft, which had been flying safely, except for once going over on its back on the airport ramp during a hurricane, since the 1940’s.

  2. bsummers

    Some others wrote that the plane had left a red flaky residue along the Charlotte Street corridor.

    Please tell us someone collected a sample.

    • Simon

      Get out there and take some then, no time to wait for others to do it.

      • bsummers

        I just got back from trying to do exactly that. Couldn’t find anything. But it had been raining for a while.

  3. Leslie Boyd

    My husband and I were with friends downtown and saw the plane. I wondered whether its pilot was trying to sky-write something and found that it was too windy to do it.

  4. Samdra Burns

    Is it possible that someone wished their ashes to be scattered thusly? Would that be legal?

    • Greg Collins

      None of the WNC Air Museum Airplanes are flown, they are museum pieces that remain in hangar on display.

      • bsummers

        Greg – as well-connected local pilots, I suspect that you & Darwin know exactly who this person was who did this. Am I wrong?

        • Darwin jones

          I could not possibly know who it is because I didn’t see it and I would never consider speculating. Any investigation that is required should be performed by the appropriate authorities.
          Regarding freedom to fly
          A rental truck full of fertilizer was used to kill men, woman and small children in OKC and you are still free to drive. Visit the memorial in OKC and you will cry.
          One incident of a plane at an unknown altitude blowing some smoke is getting way too much attention from paronoid and uniformed people

        • Greg Collins

          I have a pretty good idea who did, but I do not know for sure, and I certainly wouldn’t start naming any names when I am only speculating. If in fact it is the person I think it was, he was most likely at a legal altitude and using a legal and safe smoke system. I will admit that he should have picked a better place as this sort of thing brings unnecessary attention to the pilot community. Good idea, or not, he was most likely not breaking the law. FAA has a very good FAQ that explains the proper way to determine the altitude of an aircraft. Most folks misjudge height. If it happens again, take a photo and submit it to FAA.
          I will say this, I literally live at the end of the runway at the airport. There is currently no yellow airplane based on this field that is airworthy or flying, and no yellow airplane went out of here that afternoon or evening.

          • bsummers

            So the FAA is lying when they say that a plane left HVL airport at 7:45, circled AVL, and then returned? Or was it the multiple reports made to the Asheville police that the plane that circled AVL was yellow? Wow, a ghost airplane. Call Scooby Doo!

          • 30p

            If you have a pretty good idea who did, you should be naming names. Let the FAA investigate it. Spraying at low altitude over a residential area is a reasonable cause for concern. That pilot should be reprimanded at the least.

          • Greg Collins

            Naming names? Because I think I might know who it is is absurd and scary. I have an extensive knowledge of the FARS and I have no reason to believe that the flight described by witnesses was illegal. FAA is not known for being nice to pilots that violate the rules. If the FAA thinks something illegal was done, they now quite well where to find me. I see illegal things happening all around me all day long – building code violations, speeding, tax evasion, trucks with clearly disabled emmsion systems, loud motorcycles that exceed noise regulations, animal cruelty, and on and on. I don’t run to the authorities everytime I see such things (with the exception of animal cruelty). There are folks that do, and thy quickly become ignored by the same authorities they are complaining to.
            With all of the things to worry about and fix in the world, wasting time fretting about a pilot that was doing something that is legal and has been allowed in aircraft for almost a hundred years is not one of them for me. That all said, I’ve given my name, I’m easy to find, if the authorities want to talk to me about this I’m here, and NO, I was not the one who did it! Oh, and so far – no photos, no expert witnesses, no injuries or illnesses, no property damage, no red flakes found.

          • bsummers

            I have no reason to believe that the flight described by witnesses was illegal

            Except that so many people described it as flying too low to possibly be above the legal height of 1000′, including making calls to the police. In your long experience as a local flight instructor, do multiple people make official complaints to the police if a plane is operated at the legal height limit? I suspect not.

            And if you have any experience with aerial smoke, please tell us how low a plane would have to be flying for people on the ground to notice smoke-generated particulate (dust) falling on them after it passed?

            “The term “smoke” is intended to be interpreted broadly to include a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases…”
            Aerial smoke generator system
            https://www.google.com/patents/US9062948

            Be honest – the plane had to have been at a dangerously low altitude for that dust to still be visible to people directly under it as it passed. The fact that some people have concerns that it might have been something harmful – that’s just gravy to someone who did this just to scare the hippies, right?

            I think it’s a fair bet that you’re not the only one who knows who did this. The fact that you’re all covering for them (including all these anonymous “I know for a fact he did nothing wrong” comments from people who weren’t there), well, it doesn’t make your community look good. You’re trusted with a license to fly, and as you point out, the FAA doesn’t take kindly to people who violate that trust.

          • Greg Collins

            I fly ground reference maneuvers with students on a daily basis, it is a required part of training. I maintain 1000 to 1200′ AGL at all times. I have been doing this for 20 years and thousands of hours. It is not at all unusual to have folks call me and complain that we were “at the tree tops”. As I mentioned in a different post, the best thing to do is take a photo of the suspected low flying airplane with something in the foreground that can be measured, even your thumb will work. Submit the photo to FAA and they will investigate. I live at an airport and fly almost every day of the week providing instruction, I can’t say with certainty what the height of an airplane is, especially when looking at an angle over the trees. It is interesting that the witness with the best perspective, the gentleman on Town Mountain Road, placed the aircraft as high as 1000′. I have flown many aircraft with smoke systems, I currently fly one now that is used for rides year round, the 450hp Stearman PT-17 Biplane, especially during our Air Fair and Apple Festival. The smoke generator is nothing more than an orifice that sprays biodegradable paraffin oil into the exhaust system where it is vaporized into smoke. Paraffin is used in all kinds of products, including cosmetics applied directly to the skin, The systems are used during airshows over spectators, and for sky writing, legally and safely. FAA does not regulate smoke systems. Anyone that is more interested can come on down to Air Fair during the first weekend in June, or any other time, see the system, and even go for a ride with the smoke on. It’s pretty cool. I am not aware of any particulates being generated by the vaporizing process. I’m quite happy to speak to FAA any time. Being both a Master Instructor and a mechanic/inspector, I see the good folks from the Charlotte FSDO fairly often.

    • The Baron of Bacon

      That chemtrail really tied the community together.

      I wonder if there was a beverage involved?

  5. Tom

    Non aviators are funny. The guy just had a smoke generator on. I see a plane like that and think “that is cool”

  6. Patreeko

    I was in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Asheville and watched the beautiful bright yellow prop plane as it released orange smoke and flew a perfect tight circle directly over the church. He ended his smoke trail before making the full circle and then headed off. It was pretty cool! I feel like the pilot was either intending to say HI to friends at the church, or was planning a more elaborate sky writing but there was just too much wind. People have gotten so suspicious and paranoid.

  7. Kayla

    Not a single picture of the smoke in this day and age? That is some poor journalism M.X.

  8. Raymond

    Thank you Tom. The pilot has done nothing wrong. I find this humorous myself. I wish I would have thought of doing the same. I can see it now… flying low, generating smoke and laughing my butt off knowing the conspiracy theorists would be coming out of the woodwork. Oh, Asheville.

    • Tom

      Raymond it is quite amusing for a pilot. The aircraft was above the minimum safe altitude for populated areas and was otherwise flying safely. Flying with a smoke generator is not illegal. I do not understand why these people get so worked up. Members of the chemtrail cult I guess.

      • hauntedheadnc

        Chemtrail cult?

        Nah… Just folks concerned that ISIS might have gotten a new idea and is making practice runs. It’s all cool though, as I understand it, for anyone to fly anywhere spewing anything they want over a populated area so long as they fly just low enough. I mean, you’re cool with that, right?

        • Tom

          It was just smoke. I will bet the guy flies some aerobatics and lots of aerobatic aircraft have smoke. Yep totally cool with it. There are much easier ways to disperse poison gas. He did nothing wrong and only you are responsible for your panic.

          • luther blissett

            If your intention was to enlighten people instead of smugly yuk-yucking at them, it isn’t working very well.

          • The Real World

            Ya, Tom, we have a panicky crowd here in AVL. Especially since the election in Nov. No doubt it was a Russian flying that plane who masked it’s markings and intentionally colored the smoke red. Because, well, you know: Russian = RED!

            I particularly liked this one , “somebody needs to lose their license to fly, if not be thrown into prison for terrorizing a civilian population.” LOL

          • hauntedheadnc

            Just smoke? How delightful!

            …But tell me, exactly how in hell is someone on the ground supposed to know that? It could have been anything that plane was spraying on them. So, you’re really okay with someone flying a plane spewing a random mystery aerosol that could be anything from the aerial equivalent of rolling coal to mustard gas. Everyone on the ground should just smile and wave as it goes by. Is that about the size of it?

      • bsummers

        The aircraft was above the minimum safe altitude for populated areas

        And how do you know this? Multiple witnesses including the reporter for MX claimed otherwise.

        Flying with a smoke generator is not illegal.

        Over residential areas at treetop level? I suspect the FAA would disagree.

        • Tom

          I am going to bet the aircraft was never at “tree top level”. Be afraid of stuff you do not understand if you want.

          • bsummers

            Ah. Now you’re “going to bet”. Your last comment suggested some personal certainty of how high the plane was flying.

        • Darwin jones

          Next report will have the pilot flying between the buildings. Oh, that already happened and we got a bridge name after the pilot.

          • bsummers

            Was waiting to see how long it took someone to compare this to Robert Morgan. Pretty weak. I’m guessing that whoever blew smoke over Asheville residents on Wednesday was not a war hero, and his motives were not selling war bonds.

        • j

          Seriously… do you call the police on every person you see leave the bar after you know they had too much to drink? Do you call the police for every person you know that uses drugs illegally? What about your friends that have unsafe zoning violations at their houses? Or call the police when the person you are riding in the car with is driving and texting.

          The ignorance is this comment section is nauseating.

    • Concerned Environmentalist (go ahead and call me a Snowflake!)

      Millions of bees died in SC last year from unannounced aerial insecticide application.

      Aerial insecticide application has not been ruled out in this case, and the description of the plane and spray seen around Asheville are condusive to this type of spraying. You all are quick to call people hippies and conspiracy theorists, but a lot of us have concerns that are very much rooted in logic.

  9. Ashley

    I’m in hendersonville, and heard a small plane between 7 and 8 while sitting by the fire.. I found it very odd, but never saw it.

  10. bsummers

    Hey look – a whole new batch of anonymous commentors.

    Skywriting, at treetop level? Give us a break. Multiple witnesses say this plane was flying well below the legal limit of 1000′, over a heavily populated residential area. Like I said, somebody needs to lose their license to fly. And if the intent was to create fear in people on the ground, there should be more serious consequences.

    You anonymous commentors who think this was hilarious, and that the pilot did nothing wrong, well maybe you should encourage them to come forward and take credit for that great hilarious joke. If the pilot is hiding his identity, and his friends are helping to hide his identity, guess what – the joke wasn’t that funny.

  11. elicia

    Just to clarify, all of you smug people making fun of concerned citizens:

    you think it’s totally okay for any yahoo to pollute public air with anything they like, and not be investigated? Really? Even if its smoke, is that really necessary to smoke up the air just for fun?

  12. The Real World

    Some people just live to keep digging their holes even deeper.

    (Me? Secretly hoping that we do learn who the pilot was and that he/she is non-white. It would add an entire new layer of “dilemma” to this…..given all the skin color hysteria in the USA of the last many years. What would the panicky ones do about that?)

  13. bsummers

    Just to put this into scale – the legal limit for flying over populated areas is 1000 feet, The BB&T building, the tallest in Asheville, is just 227 feet tall. The lowest any plane is supposed to fly over Asheville is more than 4 times the height of the BB&T. Does anyone think this kerfluffle would have happened if this pilot were that high up? Or if people were freaked out over the smoke, that there would be no photos or video of it? Not a chance. This pilot intentionally ‘buzzed’ a large residential area at an illegally low altitude, and popped smoke just for good measure. There should be consequences.

    • Bwest

      Cropdusters are regulated in part by an old document called CAM 8 (civil aeronautics manual). There are waivers available for operating over and around densely populated areas. I’ve been in the industry for nearly 30 years, and the rage here in the cotton belt is ag planes using their “drift finders” (smoke system to detect wind drift direction that use mineral oil pumped into the exhaust) with either a pink or blue dye to circle and pop pink or blue smoke for a baby gender reveal

    • Raymond

      Well I, for one, think it’s HILARIOUS. It was a clear evening (I know. I witnessed it. Did you?), and someone was having fun. Taking photos with a friend, trying out an old/new smoke generator, whatever. They didn’t endanger anyone. This thread is a hoot. People love to complain, even when they break the law every single day. That’s right. You. Who here does at, or below, a posted speed limit every single mile you drive. Not a damn one of you. Someone (supposedly) broke the law. Without endangering anyone as, say, going 10 mph over the speed limit would. There was nothing else in the sky at that time. Asheville, lighten up. Go do something nice for yourselves. Get an ice cream. A massage. Hell, take a vacation. Oh, and, again, lighten up.

      • luther blissett

        Well, if the pilot eventually ends up having so much fun he lands his plane in the side of Beaucatcher mountain, we’ll all show up and chuckle at his funeral: “He died doing the thing he loved the most! What a hoot!”

  14. The Real World

    From this thread, I could write an article about how fantastically easy it is for some people to devolve into frenzy about something WITHOUT ANY PROOF. They’re ready to accuse someone without even knowing WHAT actually happened! This reminds me of the “balloon boy” story some years back. Some probably still refuse to believe that balloon boy wasn’t real. Hey, the TV said he was….LOL. Unbelievable; except it explains a lot about the last 5 or 6 years.

    Meanwhile, I live in West AVL and there has been an amazing amount of aircraft overhead for hours now. Not commercial. One plane…long, slender with the jets behind the wings has flown over 6 or more times. Another plane, sliver, older, I think with props flew over 3 or 4 times earlier. None emitting funny smoke. Maybe our pilot friends can comment on today’s activity.

    • Tom

      Its the chemtankers…has to be. “They” are getting really bold now.

  15. Patrick

    It’s like everything else…no oversight or enforcement of rules and laws. No one minding the store.

  16. Raymond

    So, the pilot was WELL within regulations. WELL. Complain all you would like, but, given our newfound population here in town (sorry, I’m an old timer) I believe that SOMEONE, ANYONE, that witnessed this would have taken a sample. I would have. No. I’m NOT a conservative. I just happen to to have a pilot’s license. Whoever it was was just having a blast and trying out a new, or really old, smoke generator. Again, he (she) broke not a single law. Simms down there, Asheville.

  17. Peter Robbins

    We could ask President Trump to retaliate with missiles, but he’d probably just miss the airstrip again.

  18. Tom

    OH MY GOD! I just saw a small blue helicopter flying over the Biltmore area. What would a small blue helicopter be doing flying over the Biltmore House?! SOMEONE CALL THE FAA! It was just aimlessly flying along. Could it be yet another pilot just enjoying the day? LOL

    • Concerned Environmentalist (go ahead and call me a Snowflake!)

      You are missing the point. People are mostly concerned about the annonymous visible spraying, not the fact that it was a plane in the air. Can you confirm that aerial insecticide application has been ruled out as the purpose of this flight? The fact that individuals would knowingly withhold information that would eleviate concerns of friends and neighbors is cruel… If it was a regular flight as you seem so confident it was, why won’t someone come forward (even annonymously to a media outlet) to set the record straight? Please be considerate to people’s concern about the environment and our health.

      • Tom

        Perhaps understanding that he did nothing wrong he does not want to be hassled by chemtrails nuts who are afraid of stuff they do not understand or even want to. These people are crazy they hate aviation and pilots because they think they are being sprayed by them.

        • bsummers

          he did nothing wrong

          So what was his altimeter reading when he flew over Charlotte street? How low do you have to be flying while emitting red smoke for the particulates to be visible to people on the ground right after you pass? C’mon, you act like you know the facts here.

          These people are crazy they hate aviation and pilots…

          I for one love aviation. My mother and father were both pilots, and my father designed advance aircraft for McDonnell-Douglas. It’s in my blood. If I hate anyone, I hate people who abuse the trust they were given when they got a license to fly. Some in the local aviation community are protecting this guy – if you really love aviation, you should hate that.

          • luther blissett

            I’m also a fan of general aviation and its long tradition in the US, and I have friends who are pilots. And in honesty, I’m not as bothered about the smoke as I am the choice of a residential area to show off over.

            If local pilots end up being reported to the FAA every time they “have a blast” and fly close to the city at low altitudes, I’m sure they’ll be enthusiastic to prove they’re complying with all relevant federal regulations.

        • The Real World

          To Tom and other readers perplexed about how this topic could utterly take on a life of it’s own WITH NO PROOF of any kind,

          I’ve been reading this website for years and feel very confident that this statement (from the 3rd comment above) is what has triggered the hysteria, “You are going to have trouble getting people at HVL to comply. This comes off as a “freak out the queers and hippies” in Asheville with a chemtrail joke by conservative pilot community.”

          I’ve seen this irrational spin-out occur before on this comment board. It’s actually the “perceived politics” that have them all freaking out. They’ll claim otherwise but, no.

          • bsummers

            WITH NO PROOF of any kind

            The FAA confirmed that a plane left HVL airport, circled AVL twice, and returned, at 7:45 pm Wed.

            The APD confirmed that multiple people called at that time to complain about a low-flying airplane. That’s proof, IMO, that the plane was flying way too low. People don’t complain when a plane is flying overhead at 1000′ (four times the height of the BB&T building), which is the lowest legal limit.

            Then there’s the eyewitnesses, including the reporter who posted this piece. You’re calling them all liars, ignorant, or whatever? Just because no one whipped out a camera in the few seconds that this low-flying airplane was visible to individuals on the ground in tree-covered North Asheville, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

          • The Real World

            Calm down; yeessh.

            Hello, you are the one spinning out and making things up. I did not say there was no plane or dispute funny-colored smoke coming from it. Do you not see how irrational you are about this?

            Maybe it was flying too low, maybe it wasn’t. I’ve walked many times where Virginia was strolling when she saw it, so I know that tree line. If there was a plane just above the trees I would do the same thing any other human would — I’d be licking the pavement or running in the opposite direction if it was just above or approaching me. That would be a natural and immediate reflex. If it was a bit in the distance, I’d start scurrying toward its flight path assuming it was going down. On this thread, I’ve read no one mention any reaction of that type. So that, reasonably, makes me think they gauged the altitude incorrectly.

            This thread is way too much “ink” for this topic. I stand by what I say just above …….the freak-out is about liberals feeling conservatives might have flipped them off. We have no proof of that either. Just a commenter above theorizing. That and $1.00 will get you on the city bus.

          • Virginia Daffron

            Just to make sure I was clear: I said that from my perspective the plane appeared just above the tops of the trees. I also said it seemed to be in the area of Charlotte Street (i.e., at least a quarter to a half mile away from where I stood). And I said I estimated the plane’s height (based on no specialist knowledge) at 300-400 feet, which would be 150 to 200 feet above the tops of our tallest trees. It did seem low, but not hit-the-dirt low, from my perspective. It really wasn’t the altitude so much as the combination of the altitude and the smoke that struck me as odd.

          • bsummers

            you are the one spinning out and making things up

            I’m the one trying to calm people down & realize there almost certainly wasn’t anything especially toxic about what the plane was spraying – it was just particle residue from the smoke. Dust.

            But unfortunately for the “he wasn’t doing anything wrong” crowd, that dust indicates that the plane was flying waaaay below the 1000′ limit when passing over the Charlotte St. corridor. If you’re at the legal height, it’s not gonna fall directly on people moments after passing over them – it’s going to dissipate.

            Find this pilot and take his license away, is what I think ought to happen.

        • Concerned Environmentalist

          I considered that the pilot might be worried about backlash, which is why I suggested in the last comment that they should come forward anonymously to a media outlet or police so there can be a public statement made to put fears to rest. Unless this person and their friends are enjoying upsetting people, then this seems like the most logical and kind action for them to take. Any other response, i.e. pride in secrecy, and making fun of concerned citizens, is childish and unkind.

  19. gobfo

    Settle down people!!!!!! If someone was trying to spray pesticides, they would be ON THE DECK spraying crops, not downtown Asheville. This pilot, by all accounts, did a couple of quick passes at a safe altitude doing a circle of smoke. Look up airshow videos.

    http://www.warteraviation.com/smoke-oil-the-essence-of-every-air-show/?lang=en

    The smoke is produced by pumping biodegradable, paraffin-based oil directly onto the hot exhaust nozzles (pistons engines) or exhaust fumes (jet engines) of the aircraft where the oil is instantly vaporized into thick smoke. A similar effect may be produced by special generators with an external power supply system. For best visual experience very efficient multi-nozzle systems are used. Nowadays using this type of equipment to produce smoke during an aerobatic shows is a must. It is, of course, possible to simplify the whole system by burning the oil into a combustion chamber, but the smoke would then be black.

    • bsummers

      This pilot, by all accounts, did a couple of quick passes at a safe altitude doing a circle of smoke.

      Which “accounts” are you referring to? The ones posted here by your other anonymous commenters who were not there? Give us a break with this “Who ya gonna believe – us experts or your own lyin’ eyes?” routine. Most of the actual eyewitness accounts that I’ve seen, including by the XPress reporter above, suggest the plane was flying at far below the legal 1000′ limit. That means that in the view of the FAA, it was unsafe.

      People see planes in the sky overhead all the time. We get used to seeing them at the actual “safe” altitude. The APD reported a lot of calls on this plane, which does not happen if a plane is flying at a “safe” altitude.

      Please stop insulting people’s intelligence with this “you’re too ignorant to know when a plane is flying too low” stuff. Whoever performed this stunt made a bad choice, and should have their license revoked. Period.

      • gobfo

        You’ve made your decision and obviously have no desire to learn anything from anyone else. Let’s revoke driver’s licenses for anyone who makes a decision you don’t like while we are at it.

    • 30p

      So “vaporized” smoke produced a red-orange flakey sediment that is heavy enough to settle on the ground?

      I don’t think you know what the word vaporize means.

      • gobfo

        Sounds like an urban myth. I think if someone had actually seen some strange red-orange sediment on the ground they would have either taken a picture of it or collected it. Not a single person has been able to produce any evidence of what was clearly in someone’s imagination.

      • 30p

        So you were a witness to the altimeter in the plane? You claimed he flew at a safe altitude. Or was that an “urban legend” used to suit your narrative?

      • bsummers

        “The term “smoke” is intended to be interpreted broadly to include a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases…”
        Aerial smoke generator system
        https://www.google.com/patents/US9062948

        How low would a plane have to be flying for that particulate to settle visibly over people on the ground, instead of scattering in the wind? When it’s operated at a “safe” altitude, I imagine no one on the ground has any idea that the smoke is actually made up, in part, of solid particulate – ie., red flaky dust.

    • Concerned Environmentalist

      Actually with Zika vector-control spraying, public and residential areas have had federal/state/local ordered aerial insecticide application in this region (albeit, usually in more coastal/humid areas, but there is a federal bill that outlines allowances for spraying in any area that is a potential Zika vector). If you’ll recall, millions of bees were killed last year in SC due to unannounced aerial insecticide application. I am not talking about “chemtrails,” I am referring to very real and accounted cases of this type of aerial spraying.

      I am not saying that this was what this flight was, and understand that it likely wasn’t. But, until someone comes forward, whether publicly or anonymously via media/police statement, that it was NOT an insecticide application, then it remains a possibility.

      If the pilot is a responsible citizen, they will contact authorities and let them know what really happened, so authorities can release a statement to calm the public. If they were not breaking any laws or regulations, they should have no fear in anonymously contacting Asheville Police Department or Citizen Times.

  20. JOSEPH B MALKI

    I saw the plane whilst downtown and I presumed it was a skywriter. I left before I could find out. Wondering if it spelled out “We are making a low budget movie.” or “Anthrax for Asheville – love ISIS/ISIL” – either way I think a simple all weather smart phone station at “noncontrol” airports might be a good idea. The pilot simply turns on record and video tapes their basic flight path and flashes their license. When completed and the press the stop button – it would message the video to the nearest tower of approach. This way just like responsible wilderness guides or families who hike into wilderness areas – a no fault plan is submitted to the ranger – aka FAA. We dont want a repeat of evil Saudi shenanigans in our airspace. Hopefully, this was just a show off move on the part of the pilot who was probably dresses up in a US Army Air Corps uniform (the first aerial forces of the American DOD). Peace and Vigilance – facebook.com/jojoavl

  21. Patrice Tappe'

    I will be brief. Five friends, myself included, two of whom witnessed this plane circling directly above them after shopping at “Trader Joe’s” became ill. I and three others were, while writing on our computers, suddenly unable to write anything but gobbledygook. My episode occurred Saturday afternoon. I had no knowledge of the others until last night and this afternoon. Counseled by yet another friend today, I called the FBI and a Mission St. Joseph’s line, spoke with the former, left a message with the latter. I will do more follow-up Monday morning. We five live in Black Mountain and all had scary things happen to them at their computers. Has anyone else become disoriented, unable to spell the simplest words for a stretch of an hour or more? Anyone dizzy and/or sweating profusely? I truly hope this is all a fluke of nature, but, the fact that the FBI told me it was not necessary for my other friends to call and report this? Even after I told them about the singular aircraft? Please report if you became ill, even days after the spraying. I did. Thx, Patrice

      • Patrice Tappe'

        Of course not. Neither does anyone else I know, personally or otherwise.

    • Naddina

      I was one of the People who called this in!
      I have had a sinus infection then Nausea and Vertigo since the exposure and I just spoke to another Women who had almost the same symptoms! Hers were headache,Vertigo and vomiting! We are going to report this to the Health Dept. I wonder if more people are having these symptoms?

      • Patrice Tappe'

        We should be calling the health department? Is there a state health department? I didn’t know whom to call after the F.B.I., so I called a number affiliated with Mission St. Joseph’s. Are you feeling any better? I’m so sorry. Who was flying that plane? Why is it such a secret?
        I would appreciate any number to call you think appropriate. Thank you for responding.
        Best, Patrice

  22. Radar

    So all they would have needed to identify the plane is a tail number. And of all the people that spotted this plane 300 feet above the ground. Not a single one took a picture ?

    • Naddina

      I did call in my symptoms! So did some other folk in the area with almost the same.

  23. Naddina

    Anyone who has had Similar or different symptoms should call it in!

  24. Naddina

    Called these people!
    And Health Dept
    WNC Regional Air Quality Agency
    No reviews · County Government Office
    9.6 mi · Asheville, NC · (828) 250-6777
    Also left word at the Health dept
    as to my symptoms
    Brain Fog,Dizzy,Sinus and nausea.
    Open until 5:00 PM

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