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    FAA to watch ultralights at Lake Seminole

    Officials will monitor the lake to ensure pilots aren't too close to boat traffic.

    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    A water scooter cruises past an ultralight Tuesday tied up at the south end of Lake Seminole. After Sunday's fatal accident, the Federal Aviation Administration plans to monitor Lake Seminole on weekends searching for ultralight aircraft flying over boat traffic.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 9, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- The Federal Aviation Administration plans to stake out Lake Seminole on weekends and search for ultralight aircraft flying over boat-packed waters.

    Ultralight pilots whom FAA officials see flying over the lake while there is significant boat traffic below could be fined, said Charles Nolan, manager of the FAA's Flight Standards district office in Tampa.

    Though the FAA has minimal regulatory power over ultralights, guidelines prohibit ultralight pilots from flying over congested areas or creating a hazardous situation. Fines for violating those guidelines can be more than $1,000, Nolan said.

    Scibelli
    The surveillance comes after the death Sunday of 52-year-old Maryann Scibelli, who was driving a Sea-Doo when it collided with an ultralight aircraft that had landed on the lake.

    The ultralight pilot, John Tanner, 44, said he was taxiing on the waterway after landing when the watercraft struck the back of the ultralight. Scibelli was thrown into the craft's propeller.

    Some witnesses told the St. Petersburg Times that it appeared the ultralight pilot was at fault. They said it appeared the pilot had trouble landing.

    Tanner, who had a student aboard the ultralight, is certified by the Experimental Aircraft Association as an ultralight instructor. He said he has been flying for 15 years.

    FAA officials also are investigating whether Tanner should be fined for flying over a potentially congested lake.

    "I'm not saying we're going to do that, but we're looking at it," Nolan said. "We're looking at that because someone was killed."

    The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's marine unit continued its investigation of the crash Tuesday, but sheriff's officials still were not saying who was at fault.

    "Our investigation says that the plane was down and the jet ski hit it," said sheriff's spokesman Cal Dennie. He said no charges are pending in the crash.

    Nolan said FAA officials aren't so much looking at fault, but instead are trying to determine whether Tanner flew over a heavy-traffic lake that he shouldn't have been flying over.

    "We don't know whether the boat ran into the ultralight or the ultralight ran into the boat or they ran into each other," Nolan said. "But we are looking at whether he flew over a congested area."

    Dennie said blood was taken from Scibelli to test for alcohol content. But blood was not taken from Tanner and his student, Jeremy Ryan, 50, because they did not show signs of being under the influence of alcohol, Dennie said.

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    Woman dies after crash on lake

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