Fight or Flight?
Aerobatic demonstration doesn't change minds of city officials
A demonstration by aerobatic pilots Saturday has not changed the minds of city officials challenging the location of their practice area.
The city council was invited to a gathering of the aerobatic pilots Saturday morning at the Morris Municipal Airport, where the gathering was hosted by Blue Sky Aero flying school.
The council called a special meeting to attend the event so that all the council members could attend, if they wanted, without violating the open meetings act. No council action was taken. Mayor Richard Kopczick and aldermen Julian Houston and Ken Sereno attended.
"We thought it would be a good idea if they were able to see what we've been talking about and what we do with it," said Cindy Limbach, owner of Blue Sky Aero and member of the International Aerobatic Club Chapter 1.
Several pilots practiced aerobatics in the box, some pilots coming from other states to do so, she said.
This summer the council objected to Federal Aviation Administration's approval of an aerobatic practice box near Morris Municipal Airport for the aerobatic club. The box, which is 3,600 feet by 3,600 feet and extends from ground level to an altitude of 5,000 feet just northwest of the airport, is used by pilots to practice aerobatic maneuvers.
The box is in the flight pattern of the approach to the runway, according to city officials, and therefore causes safety concerns with aerobatic pilots and other pilots also using the airspace. The council has asked the FAA to move the box about a mile and a half. Airport Committee Chairman Houston has said the city is not against the box, just the location.
"It's not changing my mind, no. It's nice for them to put it on, but I still stand the same," Houston said Saturday. "One and a half miles or two miles is nothing when in the air. They can do that and get out of the way of all of this."
There is just too much to worry about, he continued, and the last thing anyone wants is for something negative to happen at the airport.
Limbach said the pilots are in constant contact over radios with people on the ground and others in the air to keep the aerobatic pilots informed of oncoming traffic. When the box is "opened" for aerobatics, pilots are notified as well.
She said it's better to be closer to the airport so the aerobatic pilots and their assistants on the ground have more visibility of planes approaching the runway. If they were a mile or two away, they wouldn't be able to see all that is happening at the airport.
"It also gives people like (those) in my club who don't know a lot about aerobatics to watch and talk (to the pilots about aerobatics)," Limbach said.
The city is still arguing with the FAA about their safety concerns with the location of the box, Mayor Kopczick said. They have another meeting with the FAA soon to discuss this further.
The demonstration Saturday didn't do much to sway his thoughts, he said. On Saturday, the airport was busy and had numerous planes outside of the aerobatics pilots flying in the pattern.
"I've seen two or three aircraft coming into the airport for fuel ... following the pattern from here, and it goes through the box," Kopczick said.