Hanscom Aerobatic Lawsuits

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Given that you're local to the area and probably know some of the parties involved, what's your take on the lawsuits?

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Robbie Walker, November 20, 2003


A friend of mine moved to France 15 years ago. When asked why he said that he'd seen the results of a survey of Americans who lived near airports. A far larger percentage of Americans said that airplane noise bothered them when watching TV than when making love. That was his reason for emigrating. [Note that "watching TV" is on the list of activities that this group complains about, which would of course be daytime television because people don't do aerobatics after dark.]

The local group "Stop the Noise" strikes me as quixotic. Their Web site doesn't list any of the members or managers. Anonymous community activism seems unlikely to succeed. Then their goals are rather ambitious. Rather than simply getting the FAA to limit the hours of the practice area that is over their houses or move the practice area somewhere else they want to undo established legal doctrine that gives the FAA the sole authority to regulate airspace.

The private legal actions that they are undertaking hark back to the good old days of Common Law. If someone was polluting the river that flowed past your farm you sued them because you had an absolute right to clean water. Eventually the government started passing environmental laws and you lost the private right to sue polluters. I would think that a judge would dismiss a case against these pilots fairly quickly on the grounds that federal administrative process governs.

Mostly I'm surprised that the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) hasn't stepped in to defend these pilots. If this suit is won and even if it succeeds to the extent of intimidating these individuals, one of the fundamental freedoms that AOPA constantly lobbies for will have been lost. (AOPA mostly represents the interest of corporate jets to fly in and out of small airports in big cities at any hour of the day or night.)

-- Philip Greenspun, November 20, 2003

I'm also surprised this hasn't made AOPA headlines, and I'll be doubly surprised if they let this go unanswered.

Unfortunately, since most judges were lawyers, way too many cases that should be thrown out, continue through our judicial system to be resolved by juries made up of Jerry Springer contestestants.

In my case, where I trained in Conway, SC we can fly over 3 types of terrain: swamp, golf courses, or farmers fields. Of those 3, we get complaints every time we practiced turns-around-a-point over 2 of them. No one I trained with was real fond of flying low and slow over inaccessible swamp with nowhere to land!

-- Robbie Walker, November 20, 2003