The owner of a company that flew banners over the Masters Tournament mocking Tiger Woods' sex scandal said today that his client's freedom of speech rights were "trampled."
An inspection ordered by the agency after the flights over Augusta National on Thursday was a "sort of a bogus write-up," said Jim Miller, owner of Air America Aerial Ads in Genoa, Ohio.
Two FAA flight safety inspectors found the banner-towing plane was in need of repairs for a couple of loose or missing screws and a seat belt that had a faded-out certification label.
The finding required repairs before the plane could again fly banners, giving the pilot the option of getting the work done locally or at its home base in Ohio. The company returned to Ohio the next day .
"We can all read between the lines," Miller said, adding that he thinks the plane's mission was intentionally halted. "They'll deny it and I'll feel it is (intentional)."
FAA officials said they received a report from a local FAA flight tower, expressing concern about the plane flying over the large crowds at the Masters. The FAA has said that no outside the agency called to complain.
On Monday, The Chronicle filed an open records request with the FAA for the initial report, and it was being processed on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen corroborated Miller's version of the seat belt finding, and said there were several missing screws and some loose fasteners on the engine covering or cowling.
"There could have been a significant issue if the plane malfunctioned over a large population of people."
She said the seat belt issue alone "would not have created a situation in which we issued the condition notice."
Besides the FAA inspection, Miller said, "I had the Masters calling me personally begging what it would take to make the airplane to go away."
A club spokesman confirmed Tuesday that a call was made to Miller, requesting he not fly over anymore because the banners weren't in good taste.
Miller said that in the past 12 months the banner-towing plane in question has had approximately 10 inspections and no problems had been found before last week.
As for who paid for the banner display , Miller would only say that the order was placed by an advertising agency broker that had likely been paid by someone else to do so. Even if he knew the client's name, he said, he wouldn't reveal it.
He said there were five banners that were to be flown over the Masters, but just two made it up on Thursday. The first read: Tiger: Did you mean Bootyism?" The second read: "Sex addict? Yeah. Right. Sure. Me too."
Miller wouldn't say what the other three banners said. Asked if they could be seen the next time Woods participates in a tournament, Miller replied: "That's up to the client."
He said he currently doesn't have any additional orders for banners making fun of Woods but wouldn't be surprised if that happens.
He said he had no problem with the banners, noting that people see much worse on TV every day.
"I'm sure it's offended some people," he said, but then added, "I know for a fact a lot of people have chuckled about it."
And he's laughing all the way to the bank.
"This has done wonders for my business," he said .
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org