8900.1 CHG 543



Section 2  Evaluate a Part 137 Congested Area Operations Plan


3-4257    OBJECTIVE. The objective of this task is to determine that a public aircraft or Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 137 operator can conduct agricultural dispensing operations safely over a congested area, according to an approved plan. Successful completion of this task results in either approval or disapproval of an operator’s proposed plan.

3-4258    GENERAL. Agricultural aircraft may operate over congested areas when:

    The local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) has approved the congested area plan (CAP); and

    The appropriate official or governing body of the political subdivision over which the aircraft is to be operated has approved the operation in writing.

Indicates new/changed information.

A.    Exemptions for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Evaluation of a part 137 operator that wishes to use a UAS over congested areas requires the inspector to have additional knowledge of Public Law (PL) 112‑95, FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Section 333, Special Rules for Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems; 14 CFR part 107; and Volume 16. Please be aware, the agricultural aircraft operator of a UAS either cannot comply with several sections in part 137, or those requirements are not applicable to UAS operations. Therefore, an agricultural aircraft operator proposing to use a UAS must receive a grant of exemption with relief of the appropriate sections of part 137 and any other applicable 14 CFR parts. The operator must provide a copy of the exemption with their CAP submission. The phrase “unless otherwise exempted” is used numerous times in this volume and refers to an operator’s exemption, whether they are operating a small UAS under part 107 or under a PL 112-95, Section 333 exemption for a UAS that weighs 55 pounds or more.

B.    Appropriate Officials. An appropriate elected public official or governing body can include any of the following:


    City Manager,

    City Council,

    County Board of Supervisors,

    County Commissioner, or

    Any other similar elected public official.

Indicates new/changed information.

C.    Public Notice. If time allows, the public notice required by part 137, § 137.51(b)(2) should be given at least 48 hours before dispensing operations begin. The form that the public notice takes is up to the operator. Newspaper ads, radio announcements, television announcements, or door-to-door handbills are all acceptable methods.

NOTE:  The approving FSDO/aviation safety inspector (ASI) must verify that the applicant (whether a certificated operator or public aircraft operator) has shown with documentation the method by which they will give public notice in accordance with § 137.51(b)(2).

Indicates new/changed information.

D.    Contents of CAP. Consider the following when reviewing the plan of operation required by § 137.51(b)(3) and submitted by the operator.

1)    The CAP must include an aerial photograph, large-scale map, or computer-generated map or diagram of the area to be worked. Whichever depiction is used, it should be appropriately marked to show all obstructions that could be expected to present a hazard during the operation and the areas that could be used for an emergency landing and dumping of agricultural materials.
2)    The photograph, map, or diagram must be current, preferably within the preceding 24 months, to be considered representative of the area. If current photographs or diagrams are not available, realtor’s maps may be used to supplement. The important aspect is not to accept maps that are not drawn to scale. Maps should also be of sufficient detail to be useful in making a determination concerning the safety of the operation with regard to persons and property on the surface. Submissions that are of such a large scale that details of the area to be sprayed cannot be discerned should be discouraged.
Indicates new/changed information.
3)    If the operation will be conducted with a UAS, the CAP submission must contain a copy of the operator’s exemption, waiver, and/or Certificate of Authorization (CoA).
Indicates new/changed information.

E.    Assisting Operators. Occasionally, agricultural aircraft operators may request Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assistance in determining whether an area is congested or not. Before the FAA can determine this, the site will have to be checked. When making the determination, consideration must be made if using UAS, because the unique performance characteristics of UAS may allow for safe spraying operations where manned aircraft would not have that capability. The FAA cannot, of course, check every area an operator wants to service, but in some cases, an operator needs legitimate assistance. The inspector must use judgment in determining the status of an area as congested or not. If the inspector has any doubt, he or she should consult with other inspectors or Regional Counsel for any precedent.

3-4259    SINGLE-ENGINE AIRCRAFT. When CAPs are conducted using single-engine aircraft, the inspector shall require the operator to arrange with appropriate officials of the area concerned to take such measures as are necessary to conduct the operation safely. These may include blocking off streets and other areas that could be used in an emergency landing or similar precautionary measures required in the interest of public safety. Before approving any operator’s plan of operation, the inspector shall determine that the plan complies with the emergency landing requirements contained in § 137.51(b)(4)(iii).


A.    Takeoff Performance. If the operator intends to take off over a congested area, he or she must show in the CAP that the airplane can meet the accelerate–stop requirements of § 137.51(b)(5)(i). If the aircraft cannot meet these requirements, the operator must state in the written plan of operation that no takeoff will be made over a congested area during dispensing operations.

B.    Critical Engine Inoperative. The operator must show in the CAP that the airplane can meet the climb requirements specified in § 137.51(b)(5)(ii).

3-4261    RESTRICTED CATEGORY AIRCRAFT. Title 14 CFR part 21, or the operating limitations established for the airplane, may not require a flight manual for restricted category aircraft. Therefore, performance information may be found in the applicable military technical order, operating limitations, placards, flight test performance data established by the aircraft manufacturer, or any combination thereof. In addition, performance information provided by a Designated Engineering Representative (DER) is satisfactory. If such performance information has not previously been established for the airplane to be used or, if any doubt exists concerning the authenticity of the information presented by the operator, a Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) should be contacted to arrange for an engineering flight test in order to obtain the required performance data.

A.    Load Jettisoning. Aircraft, other than a helicopter, must be equipped with a device capable of jettisoning at least one-half of the aircraft’s maximum authorized load of agricultural material within 45 seconds (refer to § 137.53(c)(2)).

B.    Data Not Determined. If such data have not been determined for the aircraft, or if any doubt exists concerning meeting this requirement, the inspector should have the operator conduct an in-flight load jettisoning demonstration.

C.    Test Conditions. The aircraft must be loaded with any suitable material (e.g., lime, sand, or water), and the demonstration shall be observed by the inspector from the ground. The discharge of material from the aircraft should be timed to determine compliance with the 45-second jettisoning requirement.

D.    Preventing Inadvertent Jettisoning. Section 137.53(c)(2) requires that aircraft conducting agricultural operations over congested areas must have a means of preventing inadvertent jettisoning of the tank or hopper. This can be accomplished with a device, such as:

    A spring-loaded cover over a pull lever,

    A “T” handle or pull ring in a spring-loaded shield,

    A push-pull device fastened with frangible safety wire, or

    Other equivalent devices.

Indicates new/changed information.

3-4262    UAS. When CAPs are conducted using UAS, the inspector shall require the operator to arrange with the appropriate officials of the area concerned to take such measures as are necessary to conduct the operation safely. The unique performance characteristics of UAS may allow for safe spraying operations where manned aircraft would not have that capability. The inspector should take into consideration the capabilities of the UAS when evaluating a CAP. Before approving any operator’s plan of operation, the inspector shall review any exemption, waiver, or CoA held and determine that the plan complies with the emergency landing requirements contained in § 137.51(b)(4)(iii).


Indicates new/changed information.

A.    Prerequisites. This task requires knowledge of the regulatory requirements of parts 107 and 137 and FAA policies and qualification as an ASI.

B.    Coordination. This task may require coordination with the airworthiness unit, the Regional Counsel, and state, county, or local authorities.

Indicates new/changed information.


A.    References (current editions):

Indicates new/changed information.

    Title 14 CFR Parts l, 61, 91, 107, and 137.

    Advisory Circular (AC) 137-1, Certification Process for Agricultural Aircraft Operators.

B.    Forms:

    FAA Form 1360-33, Record of Visit, Conference, or Telephone Call.

    FAA Form 8000-36, Program Tracking and Reporting System Data Sheet.

C.    Job Aids. None.

Indicates new/changed information.

3-4265    PROCEDURES. After a part 137 operator requests district office approval for a CAP, determine the need for a CAP based on location, type of operation, etc. (refer to § 137.51(b)).

A.    Plan Not Required. If a plan is not required, record the discussion on FAA Form 1360-33 and place it in the district office file for the operator. Do not open a PTRS file.

B.    Plan Required. If a plan is required, the requirements of §§ 137.51 and 137.53 are as follows:

1)    Instruct the operator to present the plan to the district office that has oversight authority where the operation will take place for review.
2)    Remind the applicant of the requirement to coordinate with the appropriate state, local, or municipal authorities (refer to § 137.51(b)(1)).
3)    Discuss with the applicant various methods of public notification, such as newspapers, radio, and handbills (refer to § 137.51(b)(2)).

C.    PTRS. Open the PTRS file.

D.    Plan Requirements. Upon receipt of the operator’s plan, the district office with oversight for the area where the activity will take place will ensure that the operator has included the following information:

1)    A current aerial photograph, current map, or a recently drawn diagram of the area to be worked. Any geographical representation must show:

    All obstructions that may present hazards during operation, and

    Potential areas for emergency landing or dumping of agricultural materials.

2)    Altitudes to be maintained, approaches, departures, and turnaround considerations during operation.
3)    Name and type of material to be dispensed.
4)    Type of pest or work to be accomplished.
5)    Dates and hours of dispensing operations.
6)    Coordination with air traffic control (ATC).
7)    Special operating procedures or limitations to ensure safe operations.
8)    Method of public notification (documented in the district office file for the operator and noted on the application).
9)    An indication of coordination with the appropriate state, local, or municipal authorities (see Figure 3-144, Sample Letters Indicating Coordination With Appropriate Authorities).
10)    Methods for complying with §§ 137.51(b)(4) and (5) and 137.53(c)(2):

    Arrangements for blocking off streets and other areas that may be used for emergency landings, and

    Observation of the load jettisoning demonstration from the ground if jettisoning test data is not available or is in doubt. For multiengine aircraft, refer to § 137.51(b)(5).

11)    Means for terminating the operation in the event it appears safety may be compromised or at the inspector’s discretion.
Indicates new/changed information.
12)    A copy of the operator’s exemption, waiver, and/or CoA if the operation is to be conducted with a UAS.

E.    Pilot Qualifications. The plan must indicate the qualifications of the pilots to be used in the operation. The pilot qualifications must meet the requirements of part 61 and/or part 107 and § 137.53, unless otherwise exempted.

Indicates new/changed information.

F.    Aircraft Requirements. The plan must include information that indicates that the aircraft meets the requirements of part 91 or part 107 and §§ 137.31, 137.33, 137.51, and 137.53, unless otherwise exempted.

Indicates new/changed information.

G.    Plan Approved (Local District Office When Not the Certificate-Holding District Office (CHDO)). When the plan meets 14 CFR requirements, all safety considerations, and appropriate coordination requirements, the local district office where the operation will occur approves the CAP as submitted. Each page of the plan is stamped “FAA-Approved,” dated, and signed by the ASI who approved the plan. A copy of the stamped, approved plan is then given to the operator. The approving office will then send a copy of the stamped, approved plan to the CHDO to be kept in the district office file for the operator.

NOTE:  Once the CAP is stamped “FAA-Approved” by the FSDO where the operation will occur and a copy of that plan is provided to the operator, the operator may commence operations.

H.    Plan Approved (CHDO). When the approved and issued CAP from the approving office is received, they will add the approved plan to the district office file for the operator. Please note, issuance of an A503 is no longer required.

I.    Plan Not Approved. If the plan cannot be approved, the jurisdictional office for the area that evaluates the plan should issue a letter disapproving the CAP and send a copy to the CHDO to be put in the district office file for the operator (see Figure 3-146, Letter Disapproving Congested Area Plan).

J.    PTRS. Make the appropriate PTRS work entry.

Indicates new/changed information.

3-4266    TASK OUTCOMES. Completion of this task results in either:

    An approved CAP, or

    Issuance of a letter disapproving the CAP.

Indicates new/changed information.


A.    Monitoring.

1)    Schedule monitoring of a CAP if the task is in work program plans.
2)    Monitor the CAP (see Volume 6, Chapter 6, Section 4).

B.    Enforcement. Possible enforcement investigation if the operation is not conducted according to the approved plan or is unsatisfactory in any other manner. Use the approved plan as information for a subsequent enforcement investigation.

C.    Review. Review of any subsequent congested area operations.

Figure 3-144.  Sample Letters Indicating Coordination With Appropriate Authorities

(To the agricultural aircraft operator)

[Operator’s name and address]

I, [name], the [title of individual and name of town] grant permission to [name of operator] to fly over the town of [name of town] for the purpose of [state purpose of operation] from an agricultural aircraft on [date of operation].

[Official’s signature]

(To the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA))

[Operator’s Letterhead]


[Name and address of district office]


[Name of operator] will conduct the dispensing operation, described on the attached diagram, per Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 137, § 137.51. The aircraft used will be a [make and model (M/M) of aircraft and N-number].

The dispensing operation will be conducted at no less than [altitude] feet above ground level. The airspeed will be [speed in knots or mph].

[Chemical name] will be dispensed at the rate of [number of gallons] per acre.

The operation will be conducted from [beginning date] to [ending date].

The public will be notified of the operation [indicate methods of notification] on [date].


[Operator’s signature]

Figure 3-145.  Letter Approving Congested Area Plan

Use Web-based Operations Safety System (WebOPSS) template A503.

Figure 3-146.  Letter Disapproving Congested Area Plan

[FAA Letterhead]


[Operator’s name and address]

Dear [operator’s name]:

This is to inform you that the congested area plan, which you submitted on [date], for agricultural aircraft operations over [congested area, city, or town] is not approved.

The following items were unsatisfactory:

[List the items and how they must be corrected]

If you have any questions concerning this matter or intend to take action to correct these items, please contact this office at [telephone number].


Indicates new/changed information.

[Principal operations inspector’s (POI) signature or aviation safety inspector’s (ASI) signature]

RESERVED. Paragraphs 3-4268 through 3-4285.