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IAC Establishes Airspace Protection Fund

You can make a difference


By Bruce Ballew

The International Aerobatic Club has established the IAC Airspace Protection Fund to help support legal efforts that affect core activities of our organization. It is becoming increasingly difficult to exercise our rights to use the airspace to safely and legally conduct aerobatic activities. Claims of excessive noise and the inability to safely integrate aerobatic activities with other lawful aviation activities seem to be the most common complaints.

In fact, the FAA's own studies have concluded that noise associated with aerobatic activities is well below regulatory values, and our safety record is second to none. These are national issues and not necessarily tied to any particular locale.

Why Now?

The City of Morris, Illinois (C09), has 1) chosen to take legal action against an IAC member; 2) been unreasonable in its actions against an aerobatic practice area (APA) waiver renewal; and 3) implemented city ordinances claiming city authority to regulate the airspace above the city, which is entirely inconsistent with federal law and its obligations under the Airport Improvement Program through which the city has accepted airport funding. (New GRAPH) In early 2012, the IAC Regional Director and Government Relations Committee actively engaged the city and the FAA in an effort to resolve this issue via numerous meetings, but to no avail.

The city alleged that our IAC member was conducting aerobatic maneuvers in inappropriate airspace. The city filed a formal complaint with the FAA against the pilot. The FAA investigated the complaint and found no evidence to indicate the pilot had violated any FARs and determined that no further action was required. Not satisfied with the FAA's determination, the city then chose to file charges against the pilot in local circuit court, citing him with violating specific FARs.

The city has ignored the numerous efforts by the member to resolve this issue over the last 18 months and continues to defer his court appearance. The city's delaying tactics clearly represent an effort to intimidate the pilot and IAC Chapter 1, and to leverage this action in order to force IAC Chapter 1 to walk away from the APA.

The FAA Great Lakes Region Legal Counsel has informed the city directly that city and airport officials do not have the authority to enforce FARs. But the city has chosen to ignore this information and to continue to pursue the charges against the member.

The FAA has consistently upheld the position of the member and that of IAC Chapter 1. But the FAA has failed to actively pursue this with the city. However, the FAA has expressed its willingness to testify on behalf of the member and IAC Chapter 1. Why the FAA has not been more proactive with the city is not known.

The city repeatedly has challenged the re-issuance of the APA, claiming that the FAA did not follow proper procedures during the re-issuance process. The city filed a Consistency and Standardization Initiative (CSI) which required the FAA to confirm that the proper process was employed in the waiver's re-issuance. The FAA's investigation revealed that the process had been properly followed and upheld the re-issuance of the APA waiver. The city appealed the FAA's conclusion. And again, the FAA upheld its initial determination.

Lastly, the city has established ordinances granting it and the airport manager authority that is clearly pre-empted by federal law. For example, city ordinances maintain that the airport manager has been granted the authority to ground any aircraft, including those engaged in any legal aviation activity that he unilaterally determines not to be appropriate. Further, the city ordinance requires that all aircraft utilizing the airport be registered in the State of Illinois. Other inappropriate elements of city ordinance exist.

The city's plan seems to be to render its efforts against us painful enough such as to cause the member and IAC Chapter 1 to simply walk away. This must not be allowed to stand. The city must be held accountable for their egregious actions and must not be allowed to prevail simply because we did not have the stomach for the fight, became exhausted from the effort, and simply surrendered.

With no other viable option before us, in April 2013, the member and IAC Chapter 1 filed suit in federal court against the City of Morris and individually against certain city officials, asserting that 1) IAC Chapter 1's members' civil rights have been violated by the city's actions and its continued efforts to postpone the members court hearing; 2) the city has exceeded its authority by citing the member with violating FARs; and 3) the city has failed to comply with its obligations under the Airport Improvement Program. The filed federal action seeks an end to the blatant interference, and recovery from the city.

In the end, there is little doubt that the IAC member and Chapter 1 will prevail in federal court. However, we have to get there. These efforts take time and money. The outcome of this anticipated ruling will undoubtedly be used in following similar cases. And we should have no doubt there will be others.

The Fund

At its April 2013 meeting, the IAC Board of Directors voted to provide $5,000 to help support the legal efforts of Chapter 1.

At the same meeting, it was decided to investigate establishing a trust-type fund that would be endowed by private donations, restricted to supporting legal actions that threaten airspace use for aerobatics and related actions. This activity is still ongoing. Any recovery awarded in the current action against the City of Morris, less expenses, would be returned to the fund.

How to Contribute

The IAC Airspace Protection Fund is in need of immediate financial support in order to prepare for future challenges and to complete the current action against the City of Morris. A number of IAC chapters and individual members have already contributed. All are encouraged to do so.

Those wishing to contribute to the IAC Airspace Protection Fund should send their donation to Trish Deimer-Steineke at International Aerobatic Club, P.O. Box 3086, Oshkosh, WI 54903-3086. The donation should note that it is designated for the IAC Airspace Protection Fund in the memo section of the check. These donations are tax deductible.

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