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FAA lifts more restrictions on small plane flights

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eight days after closing the skies to private aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration Wednesday night slightly lifted the restrictions, allowing small planes to fly in rural areas.

But the ban remained in place that prohibits planes, flying under Visual Flight Rules, from approaching major cities.

There continued to be an outright ban on certain aviation activities, including flights conducted by aviation schools, traffic and news helicopters, banner-carrying planes and commercial sightseeing aircraft.

On September 11, following the hijacking of four jetliners, the FAA emptied the skies of all aircraft. Since then, the agency has gradually restored flying privileges to large commercial carriers and to smaller aircraft operating under Instrument Flight Rules -- rules that require pilots to use navigation instruments and to keep in contact with air traffic controllers.

The FAA also has lifted restrictions in Alaska, where planes are a major form of transportation, and for crop-dusters and other agricultural uses.

But the vast majority of air traffic is done by pilots operating under Visual Flight Rules; VFR rules that require the pilots to avoid clouds and hazy weather and require little contact with air traffic controllers.

Visual Flight Rules (VFR) pilots can now fly except in "enhanced" Class B airspace -- space that surrounds major airports in the 30 big cities, the FAA said.