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More Help for Balloonists Sued by Olive Farm for Overflights

Overflights

February 17, 2011 — Balloonists in the southern desert of California near Palm Springs are receiving even more help in their legal battle against JCM Farming, which is suing them for overflying its extensive olive farm, in the form of a fundraiser with Hollywood star power. JCM has filed complaints with the FAA as far back as 2009 regarding low flights by balloon operators and one pest control operation. Though the FAA has never found any wrongdoing, JCM has managed through lawsuits to elicit signed promises from several balloonists not to fly over its property.

While it appears JCM’s main business is olives, the center of the 80-acre property features 24-foot-high, 4-foot-thick security walls that include what look like guard turrets at the corners. The site also features an encrypted, electronic security gate with signs warning that trespassers will be met with “armed response, guard dogs, and no exit,” according to The Desert Sun.

In a separate Desert Sun article about JCM Farming, the paper reported that, in court filings, JCM characterized its farm as a location where VIPs and dignitaries can meet in a secure environment. It also reported that it conducts highly confidential research that involves several pending and granted patents. Records show that JCM owns patents for both manufactured items and agricultural processes having to do with soil.

The owners of JCM say they like hot air balloons but covet their privacy more. In an opinion piece published in the The Desert Sun they complained of balloon operators flying so low that they were awakened in the early morning hours. Additionally, JCM’s owners say that the low-flying balloons endanger their employees. However, JCM has applied for a permit from Riverside County to operate a helipad for multiple daily flights from the property. JCM has also sued the FAA and the Department of Agriculture.

Attorney Robert Gilliland Jr. offered the full services of his law firm to the balloonists and he says he’s received more than 100 calls, emails, and letters of support from around the world, with many offering help. The fundraiser at a local polo club will feature among other things tethered balloon rides. Actor William DeVane, who lives in the area, is scheduled to participate in a press conference the day of the fundraiser.

EAA Radio’s Fareed Guyot talked with reporter Keith Matheny from The Desert Sun newspaper about why JCM’s lawsuits against the balloonists have been so successful.

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