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Local police, the FAA and an irate neighbor

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Local police, the FAA and an irate neighbor

Old 09-04-2014, 08:29 AM
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JollyPopper
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Default Local police, the FAA and an irate neighbor

For the first time in twenty years of flying where we fly, we have an irate neighbor and I am not even sure what he is irate about.

It all started about six weeks ago on a hot Sunday afternoon. We were flying as usual on Sunday afternoon when a guy walked onto the field dressed in shorts, tee shirt and heavy leather gloves. We (the group of flyers) assume the gloves were to prevent his skinning his knuckles when we were hitting them with our chins. Anyway, he walks onto the field and immediately starts shouting about how we were terrorizing him and all his neighbors with our planes. According to Google Earth, he lives about 1,000 feet out from our flight line. He told us how he was ex-law enforcement and an accomplished RC pilot, so he knew everything about everything and he was going to see to it that we were shut down from flying at that field no matter what he had to do. Come to find out, he lives with his daughter, who rents a trailer in a trailer park. He, personally, doesn't own or rent anything. But since we were not very receptive to his threats, he called the police. We finally got him to leave and about ten minutes later, two deputies arrived following up on a complaint (his). They milled around for about thirty minutes trying to conjure up something we were doing illegal but finally left saying we were perfectly right to be doing what we were doing and to keep on keeping on.

The next episode was a letter from the FAA to the owner of the private property where we fly. Now, I don't really believe the FAA was meant to have jurisdiction over model airplanes, but they are just recently assuming that authority. They pointed out in the letter that all the air above ground level is NAS, National Air Space, and they have authority over everything that flies in it. They also pointed out that if we were flying recklessly or carelessly, they could come down hard on us including fines of $10,000.00, I presume each person. The letter went on to say that we must be flying line of sight only (no FPV or equivalent), nothing over 55 pounds and no drones or they would severely chastise us. Our response was to write a nice letter to them explaining who we are, that we are doing nothing wrong and inviting someone from the FAA to come, unannounced if they wish, and observe us.

Most recent episode was late yesterday.. One of our group is a prominent doctor here in town who is very busy and can only fly late evenings. He showed up yesterday and was flying when two police cars pulled in. Again, they milled around for about an hour trying to figure out something we were doing illegal. Finally asked the doctor, whom they observed flying, for his driver's license. I'm not even sure they had the right to do that, but being the meek little people we are, we did not object. Again they left saying they could not think of anything we are doing wrong, and were on their way to talk to him. I really wish I could have been a fly on the wall to overhear that conversation. I am not really clear what his beef is

The point of all this is that this guy now has a cause and he is not going away. Even if the local police and the FAA tell him he is wrong and has no grounds for complaint, the guy is not going away and we are not really sure what to do about it. He has been told that he is not welcome on the property and if he sets foot on it again, he will be arrested, but that really won't stop a guy with a cause.
Old 09-04-2014, 09:26 AM
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Luchnia
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If he will be arrested by coming on the property, then let it be so. He may try to do some property damage so you should watch out for that. Some times you just cannot reason with some people and this guy seems like one of those folks that no matter how or what you do, you won't satisfy him. He seems to be out to get you guys.

One thing though is if he keeps bothering the police they will eventually get aggravated with him and will let him know in their own way that you guys are in the right and he needs to stop the harrassement. I hope things work out for you guys and you can get a handle on this guy.
Old 09-04-2014, 11:15 AM
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porcia83
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Did anyone stop and try to have a conversation with the guy? Did this come completely out of the blue, or was this an issue that was building over time. I get that he might have been a hothead right out of the chute, but maybe some calm discussions might have been called for (assuming he would have talked). I assume there was some discussion as you determined where he lived, and that he doesn't pay rent (irrelevant to his complaint though). 1,000 away from homes doesn't seem that far if you guys are flying larger scale planes. Could something have happened for him to finally complain? Did you get copies of the police report to see what his actual complaint is, and what would cause the authorities to respond? FAA would not normally get involved in something like this.

I see the field is privately owned, and has been used by you guys for years and years. What does the owner have to say about what's going on? They complainant seems to have an issue at this point and isn't going to let it go, wonder if the owner needs to be concerned about the town or city coming after him for possible code violations. I'm not saying there are any, just that this may be the next thing he attacks. Are you guys a club, or just some friends who all fly together?

Maybe he's socially awkward....and just wanted an invite to fly?
Old 09-04-2014, 02:02 PM
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This came completely as a surprise, not something that had been building for years. In fact, the guy has only lived there, with his daughter, for just over a year, and as I stated earlier, there have been absolutely no complaints for 20 years. We have not seen the police report, but I did call the sheriff's office earlier today and was told to call back after 6:30 this evening and I could talk to the officer who responded to the complaint. There were two officers there, one clearly in charge and the other obviously in training. I have the name of the one who was in charge. I want to find out what the guy's actual complaint is, but both times officers came out, they mentioned that they had a complaint about excessive noise. We have decided that this coming Sunday, one of us is going to go sit in the trailer park while one of the other guys flies a large gasser in a normal fashion and we will see if we are actually flying over his house. His house is northeast of the field and there is a grove of huge trees at that end of the field. The south end of the field is wide open pasture, and we almost always fly at that end of the field for the most part and land from that end of the field. It is much easier to approach over the pasture and settle in than to come over the trees at the north end of the field and be forced to suddenly drop from 75 feet or so up and hit the field. I assume the FAA is involved simply because he wrote them a letter and they, like any other law enforcement agency, must respond to a complaint. They have just recently assumed authority over model airplanes. I don't think it was meant to be that way.

The gentleman who owns the land also lives on the land and runs a thriving business on the land. He is absolutely furious with this guy but since he is a neighbor, he is trying to get along with him. We have even posted a large map at the field since the first incident indicating no fly zones and they include this guy's house. The guy who owns the land is very chummy with us, the flyers, and has no intention of shutting the field down to us. Ever. We, the flyers, are not a club. We used to be and were even AMA sanctioned, but several years ago, the AMA attempted to tell Jim, the owner of the land, what all he needed to do on the land to stay in good standing with the AMA and Jim decided we didn't need them. Jim and several of his friends fly powered parachutes and ultra light airplanes from this field and part of our agreement with Jim is that we keep the field looking nice. Even now, at the beginning of September, the field looks like a golf course. We keep a field 700 feet long and 150 feet wide mowed and manicured for Jim. There are no ruts, rocks or any rough places in it. You can land anywhere on it and not worry about the plane nosing over from ruts or rocks or an otherwise rough field. As well as being very chummy with us, Jim likes for the field to look like this. He has absolutely no intention of shutting it down.

Talking to the guy is simply impossible. He simply gets irate and starts screaming and threatening. Other than noise, we don't even know what his complaint is. And like the police said last night, they came in with their windows down while Perry was flying a big gasser, one of the loudest planes we ever fly, and they said they could barely hear it. When we are over his house, if we ever are, the plane has to be a minimum of 200 feet in the air or we would lose sight of it behind the grove of trees that is only 400 feet out from us. The plane can't possibly be that loud at that height. He simply made an ass of himself and is too stubborn to back down. My only concern is what he does when he realizes that he won't get anything done either by the local law enforcement or the FAA. He is a hot head and if he ever was really some branch of law enforcement, probably has guns. Everybody in Arkansas, I think, has guns. Where will this go?
Old 09-04-2014, 02:32 PM
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porcia83
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Okay, a little more context to understand the deal. The noise seems to be the issue, but again, it's hard for anyone to understand the whole situation without being there. The plus here is that you have a landowner that is "on your side". Additionally, larger sized aircraft fly from there, and you have been there a while, but something has clearly happened recently to get this guy up in arms (hopefully figuratively, not literally). The guy might not have a single legitimate complaint to push forward, but I suspect he is going to be a problem for you and your flying buddies. And while the owner of the land is on your side at this point, you've already signaled he wants to keep the peace. I'd gather as much info as you can, then plan your next step. Very wise to be cautious given the prevalence of firearms nowadays too. The police reports might shed some additional light on his complaints if he's unable to clearly and rationally discuss them with you guys.

Another option....bring in a neutral third party to the issue that can talk with him, and you guys (probably better to have one person speak for the group rather than all of you), as well as the owner. Is this something that can be worked out between all of you? Is there something that could be done to de-escalate? At our club, we do not allow gas/nitro motors to be fired up until 10, and those that sound loud get a db meeter slapped on 'em. Our field is behind a senior complex....a somewhat exclusive one at that, we are hyper vigilant to keep things quite when needed. I know this was in the afternoon, but perhaps setting a 10-4 time limit on Sundays, or something like that, would make things work. The other issue is the approach. Perhaps a change might be in order? Get everyone to start using their rudders and sideslipping skills...they come in handy in tight spots. (just kidding).

Hate to be a pessimist, but I doubt this guy is going away. In fact, he's probably more motivated to wreak havoc since all his prior complaints went nowhere. Calling in the FAA sort of signals that (FYI, a small point, but the FAA didn't recently assume authority over model airplanes).

Probably not what you wanted to hear. Chances are you and the land owner might be completely in the right, and can tell the guy to pound sand...but small town politics and neighbor squabbles can be nasty business. Best to try to nip it in the bud. And that's not even mentioning civil actions he can take. Then it gets nasty and expensive, like quick.

Final comment, promise. In general I'm a big proponent of AMA membership and involvement, but completely get that it's not for everyone. Nothing like freedom of choice for sure. Around here, it's pretty much a requirement to fly anywhere good and safe. Curious though what led the landowner to move away from involvement with them.

Anyway, keep the thread updated if you can, interested to see where this goes. Hope it goes well.
Old 09-04-2014, 04:20 PM
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JollyPopper
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Well, friends, I just spoke on the phone with the deputy who answered the complaint last evening and you guys ain't even gonna believe this. First, even though he was the one who called the police, he was not available to speak to them when they went to his house. They talked to his daughter who said their actual complaint is that we are flying at tree top level and they are so afraid that we are going to crash into the power lines over his trailer, break the lines, they are going to fall on his trailer and burn it up.
Old 09-04-2014, 04:33 PM
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Something about harassment, false police reports, etc. ???
Most places have laws that might be applicable if problems continue.
Old 09-04-2014, 04:43 PM
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porcia83
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I don't know the layout of the area, but his concern doesn't seem to far fetched on the face of it. Him not being available to speak with the officer is irrelevant as well, it's still a concern of his and the daughter. If there are giant scale gassers close to power lines that could be damaged, and then cause subsequent damages, it doesn't seem like an unbelievable situation. I presume all the fliers either have homeowner insurance (or perhaps some have AMA even though not required where you fly)? It looks like for many years nothing has ever happened, but he has created a public record now of his concern, and I presume the landowner and now the fliers are all aware of it. Knock on wood nothing will happen, and his concerns are unfounded and irrational, but set aside the feelings you guys have about what he has done so far and try to look at this from this perspective; does his complaint have any merit at all? If so, think about what you can do going forward.
Old 09-04-2014, 04:50 PM
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porcia83
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Originally Posted by chuckk2 View Post
Something about harassment, false police reports, etc. ???
Most places have laws that might be applicable if problems continue.
There is nothing improper about calling authorities when you have concerns for your safety. It would be virtually impossible to show that a report like the one filed was "false". If there are planes in the area, and trees, and power lines, and his trailer....his complaint is 100% legit (in terms of it being reported). He has every right to file with the FAA, or zoning, etc. If he handles himself appropriately, there is little that can be done about him complaining. "noise" complaints are pretty common for police departments. If they find his complaints to be merit less, and tells him to stop, and he doesn't, that's a different ball of wax.
Old 09-04-2014, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by JollyPopper View Post
...According to Google Earth, he lives about 1,000 feet out from our flight line. .
He lives 1,000 ft from your flight line? Hmmmmmmmmm.......that might have a lot to do with it.
Old 09-04-2014, 07:01 PM
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First, check the local ordinances and codes. In some areas after three complaints whether they are valid or not may force LE to do something Typically noise ordinances is 65 db at the property line and Hours of 10pm to 6 am are restricted. I doubt you are violating anything. If you are worried about the guy, go get a restraining order. Just go down to the county clerks office and file it and pay the service fee. This way when he calls to complain you can reference it and ten to one the police will go away. Make sure you get some police documentation about how he appeared unstable and you are scared! Another kicker is if you get a restraining order on him he wont pass a background check to buy a gun and if he has a permit to carry it probably would get revoked until the order expired. It can be a big ass mess for him if he has guns. Since you have been there 20 years you are probably grandfathered in with any zoning, but check to make sure the guy doesn't get something stupid passed by the county commissioners. Write up a nice history about how you have been there forEver, dont cause problems and are very concerned about the complaint as you don't want issues with anyone but are also concerned that he may be irrational/unstable and send to the commissioners? Also consider getting a supplemental insurance policy. Our club has one as we aren't ama. I have NEVER heard of the ama giving a field owner grief? So that seems fishy to me. I would strongly consider rechartering just so you can slap the safety manual and safety code down and tell the cops to f-off. You are a chartered club and abide by the safety code and have insurance and request that they can leave the private property asap. Finally invite the local boy scouts out to fly on buddy boxes and get the paper to do an article on how you are a nice bunch of guys and help kids etc etc.. Good pr goes a long way.
Old 09-05-2014, 06:36 AM
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After 36 years of flying rc I have seen this stuff over and over.in the end if people don't want you there eventually you end up with no field.a 1000 feet really isn't much.maybe just go electric.in our case we flew at an abandoned airport over the years a new development rose up.we moved even further away .as luck would have it a state trooper really didn't like our being there.we didn't fly anywhere near him or his neighbors.he did everything he could to shut it down.eventually he contacted his state legislator and he contacted the town.the town bought the property and locked the gate.as far as I know the field is closed and there is nothing going on .I have seen fields come and go .now your telling us the faa is flexing it's muscle.it aggravates me .I love this hobby but if the Damn got succeeds restrictions us I will sell off my stuff and do something else.it doesn't help us when an idiot Flys his fpv into a stadium during a a football game.we are really losing our freedom I get it now and it makes me sad and furious.so is if this guy persists eventually the field loses.
Old 09-05-2014, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by oliveDrab View Post
He lives 1,000 ft from your flight line? Hmmmmmmmmm.......that might have a lot to do with it.
I agree. That's awful close. Are there any other neighbors that close?

Mike
Old 09-05-2014, 08:53 AM
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Luchnia
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Originally Posted by cloudancer03 View Post
After 36 years of flying rc I have seen this stuff over and over.in the end if people don't want you there eventually you end up with no field.
I get the point on this, yet I think this is private property and the land owner does have as much rights as anyone. Unless the folks are doing something illegal then there is no problem. File a civil harassment restraining order and he will know you mean to fight for your rights. You deem him a threat/danger to you and your visitors.
Old 09-05-2014, 08:56 AM
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sounds like the guy is quite a pain. I would jokingly suggest having this on a sign. I got mine from a flying J truck stop on a T-shirt.
and again jokingly I wonder what does this guy fly? unmuffled 2 stroke .90's?
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Old 09-05-2014, 10:12 AM
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essyou35
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Welcome to the Obama era. He probably gets your money for health inurance and your taxes for food. You've been working hard all day but this guy has to sleep all day and drink all night. Be considerate.

To me it sounds like the FAA was sending you a canned letter, and it just stated the obvious which are already AMA rules (except FPV but I digress). I wouldnt be too hard on them, I think just did it to appease him and there was nothing threating as far as I can tell. In terms of the cops, get them engaged in the hobby. Ask them if they want to try out the club trainer. Get them flying and get it on camera
Old 09-05-2014, 11:36 AM
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I got a fix for him! find out if he truly was in law enforcement because if not that means he was impersonating a police officer!

Last edited by I-fly-any-and-all; 09-05-2014 at 11:39 AM.
Old 09-05-2014, 12:21 PM
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I presume all the fliers either have homeowner insurance (or perhaps some have AMA even though not required where you fly)?
Your AMA insurance is valid wherever you fly, provided you have the landowner's permission.

I like the mention of a restraining order, and doing the background check.

Probably showing up at his door with a couple cold 40's would help?
Old 09-05-2014, 01:15 PM
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Sucks that you guys have to go through that. Its amazing to me that the only way some people can find to communicate is through threats and screaming. Signs of a small mind.

Just be sure none of you guys lose your tempers and react. That could give him another club to beat you with.

DRS
Old 09-05-2014, 03:26 PM
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I possible solution is is INVITE him to fly!.. put him on a trainer and let him fly. Hell he might decide he likes it?
Even tho he's an ass.. it might be worth while?
Old 09-05-2014, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by BobH View Post
I possible solution is is INVITE him to fly!.. put him on a trainer and let him fly. Hell he might decide he likes it?
Even tho he's an ass.. it might be worth while?
Naw, most clubs already have enough " butts " in their clubs. You don't need one more ! LOL

We have almost the same situation going on with our club, but the person complaining lives well over 1,000 feet from the flight line. As a matter of fact, our flight line is an authorized FAA dirt strip airport. He is complaining about noise from gas & glow engines. Just wondering why he is not complaining about full scale aircraft, using the same airport.
Old 09-05-2014, 04:34 PM
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We had a lady that Started to complain, saying our, planess was giving her a headache, police told her we were doing nothing wrong. Weeks later she called the police telling them that one of our planes crashed on her property, when they investigated the claim found there was no engine electronics in the plane, and very little of the 'plane was there in the dibot she dug. Turns out it was a plane out off the trash can that had crashed that week that she staged. She has since moved.

Last edited by hairy46; 09-05-2014 at 04:47 PM.
Old 09-05-2014, 04:41 PM
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I agree that 1,000 feet doesn't seem that far, but for those of you who have never tried it, have someone take a plane out to a measured 1,000 feet and hold it up and you look at it. I understand the knee jerk reaction is that we all fly out that far, but after actually trying it, I don't think many of us fly out that far purposely. The point here is that I have said all along and still believe we very seldom, if ever, get over his house.
Old 09-05-2014, 04:58 PM
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The AMA really should not have restrictions on the land owner as far as a sanctioned club being on his property. You may want to check on this sometime. The AMA is a great resource.
On another note, my brother and I flew into a trout fishing lodge up there a few years ago (maybe called Gastons?) and had a great day fishing on the river. Beautiful country.
Best of luck with your situation with the neighbor. Please let us know how things work out.
Paul
Old 09-05-2014, 07:33 PM
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Seems like this might be a mental health issue, which would be a safety concern for the guys flying. That said the guy probably doesn't want to go to prison over some noise issues. You're probably right, he couldn't really create any issues for you guys and is being prideful about the fact that he is essentially being ignored, which is the best defense against this type of idiot. Maybe suggest to the police that this could possibly be a mental health issue. What type of threats is he making?

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