Whether you’ve done it once or many times, as a pilot there is no better way to view the Fourth of July fireworks celebrations than from the vantage point aloft in your airplane.
In fact, in doing so, you won’t be limited to just one viewable celebration, as you would perched on the ground at your local spot. Instead, your flying viewing platform will typically provide the unique aerial advantage of viewing multiple display celebrations at the same time. It’s an experience that few mortals experience.
As you might expect, to complete a safe and fun nighttime viewing flight, there are some things you can do to assure a successful completion with plenty of oooohs and ahhhhs for all the right reasons.
First and foremost, remember that professional aerial firework displays can travel upwards of 1,000 feet AGL. Therefore, it’s suggested that you plan your 4th of July flight to cruise at normal altitudes for a local night flight, plus a margin. This not only will provide safety from the fireworks shells that are launched skyward but will also provide you a margin of protection to allow for any emergency that may develop. And since the goal is to see as many displays from a bird’s eye view as possible, that extra altitude will improve that goa,l as well. Of course, as always, you need to make sure that there are no TFRs associated with the displays or not.
While you will be looking down at all the beautiful, patriotic displays, don’t forget to keep your head on a swivel for other traffic. Fourth of July nighttime viewing flights are one of the most common reasons of the year for a local VFR night flight. That means you will be competing with other aircraft in similar airspace at similar altitudes. Listen on the CTAF for the nearest airport for other traffic or talk with the approach controller in your area—they won’t be surprised for the call, but as always, they might or might not be able to provide traffic advisories depending on how busy they are. Use your eyes as well as any traffic avoidance devices you have available for spotting other traffic in the area.
Fuel onboard is your friend for this type of flight. Most experienced pilots who are used to flying these types of sorties will double the minimum required fuel for a nighttime flight. Since you’ll likely be circling areas multiple times and potentially changing your course frequently to chase the active displays, the extra fuel will give you that peace of mind for completing the flight safely.
If you haven’t experienced watching fireworks from above and have an aircraft available to do so, do some planning and enjoy what will likely be one of the most spectacular views available on a special night of Independence celebration.