Airport cited safety concerns of banner-toting plane

Noise of plane, banners' messages noted in FAA memo

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Mike Gunn, air traffic manager at Augusta Regional Airport, was worried enough to call the Federal Aviation Administration when he saw a small private plane pulling a banner taunting Tiger Woods during this year's Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

A plane towed a banner over the Augusta National Golf Club during the first round of the Masters Tournament. Five banners were to be flown by Air America Aerial Ads, but just two made it up.   Associated Press
Associated Press
A plane towed a banner over the Augusta National Golf Club during the first round of the Masters Tournament. Five banners were to be flown by Air America Aerial Ads, but just two made it up.

"Mr. Gunn expressed safety concerns that since the airport was operating over thousands of spectators the FAA should perform a ramp inspection to ensure the airworthiness of the aircraft," says an FAA memorandum dated April 11.

Gunn, who requested an inspection of the Cessna 150, also worried about the noise of the plane and its banner's message.

"He also noted there was an advisory Notice to Airmen encompassing Augusta National Golf Course due to noise sensitivity during the Masters Golf Tournament. Mr. Gunn also indicated the message on the banner was inappropriate, which was not an issue for our Flight Standards Office," says the FAA memo, which was among a stack of documents received Wednesday by The Augusta Chronicle after a Freedom of Information Act request filed April 12.

FAA officials said at the time of the incident that there was no airspace restriction over Augusta National, but because of increased flights in and out of local airports during the Masters, nonmandatory advisories were issued, asking pilots not to fly within two nautical miles of the tournament.

A total of five banners were to be flown by Genoa, Ohio-based banner-towing company Air America Aerial Ads, but just two made it up.

The first one read: "Tiger: Did you mean Bootyism?" The second said: "Sex addict? Yeah. Right. Sure. Me too."

The company's president, Jim Miller, has since said he thinks the inspection of the plane -- which found "a number of mechanical issues," according to FAA documents -- infringed on his client's freedom of speech rights.

The client who paid to have the banners flown over the course has yet to be named.

The plane returned to its home base after its pilot, identified as Justin Polen, was told the plane required repairs.

According to an FAA aircraft condition notice, the plane had "several screws missing from engine upper cowling," "several fasteners loose on engine cowling," and "TSO tags on seat belts missing -- (not legible, unable to read information)."

Miller has called it a "bogus" inspection and said he got a call from Masters officials the day the banners flew asking the plane not to fly anymore because the messages were in poor taste.

A club spokesman has confirmed that call was made, but that was the club's only involvement. FAA documents support that, saying that only Gunn reported the incident.

When contacted by the FAA, pilot "Justin Polen was very cooperative with the inspectors, and their interaction was cordial and professional. The pilot was found to be a properly certified airman, holding all the proper ratings for the operation he was conducting."

FAA reports showed that the only thing Polen failed to do was notify area Flight Standards District offices prior to flying. The report states that a Detroit office that issued Polen's certifications had been notified of this "for any additional action required by that office."

FAA records also note the high-profile nature of the case.

One document with a "political/media considerations" heading states "The Augusta National Golf Course during the Masters Tournament draws enormous national media attention. This year due to Mr. Tiger Woods' return to professional golf and since the aerial banner appeared to be addressing an issue with him this has become a media concern."

An e-mail sent by an FAA spokeswoman to another FAA official also states: "So far only Augusta media have called, but it's on Fox News, and ESPN."

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johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 05/27/10 - 02:07 am
0
0
I wonder who the coward is

I wonder who the coward is that paid for the banners. Why is he in hiding? There's little doubt the banners fall under the heading of tacky. I like the way the needless taunting was ended. Plane inspection. Great idea.

dickworth1
954
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dickworth1 05/27/10 - 02:47 am
0
0
Well, maybe I don't want you
Unpublished

Well, maybe I don't want you driving in my neighorhood, so I will have
your auto banned because you have an Obama bumper sticker on it. Let's take away your freedom of speech and see how you like it! This is
BS and you know it. As far as who paid for the banners, it is none of your business. I think the National overstep their boundarieson this one.

Dixieman
17517
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Dixieman 05/27/10 - 04:34 am
0
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"...Mr. Gunn also indicated

"...Mr. Gunn also indicated the message on the banner was inappropriate, which was not an issue for our Flight Standards Office," sez the FAA. A careful reading of the story and this extract from the complaint reveals the true agenda. I like dickworth1's take on this incident.

justus4
113
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justus4 05/27/10 - 04:48 am
0
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Look at how civilized this
Unpublished

Look at how civilized this interaction sounds. A reckless attempt to get on TV and everything seems to be in order. Ha! There are countless charges that could be given to this guy, but as predicted: nothing. What a complete joke. And this was a credible investigation...God help us.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11293
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/27/10 - 05:31 am
0
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Ok Judge Justus, name the

Ok Judge Justus, name the countless charges! Name just one of the charges!

cubbie
0
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cubbie 05/27/10 - 05:48 am
0
0
What a waste of news worthy

What a waste of news worthy space and time. Let it go. Get a hobby. Pick your battles for petes sake. Had you not jumped on this like a cat on catnip, it would have been forgotten before Masters goers arrived back home. Do you have to give every nut in the country their 15 mins. of fame???

bettyboop
8
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bettyboop 05/27/10 - 05:49 am
0
0
LOL.....

LOL.....

sgachief
0
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sgachief 05/27/10 - 05:50 am
0
0
with an idiot like this

with an idiot like this controlling traffic out of augusta, i'm glad i don't use the augusta airport. must be an obama supporter!!!

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 05/27/10 - 05:51 am
0
0
What this report doesn't show

What this report doesn't show is how many calls were made by National Hills to Mr. Gunn before Mr. Gunn called the FAA. Or better yet, where he was when he made the call - maybe at the Masters? Soaking it up with other local officials on complimentary passes? This was a clear abuse of power. He didn't violate any air space or flying rules so let's fine tooth comb his plane - - - a few loose screws and some not legible seat belt tags. Are those like the mattress tags that are illegal to remove? I am all for maintaining the decorum of the Masters but you can't legislate from the private sector and certainly not in a reactive fashion.

champagne
0
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champagne 05/27/10 - 05:59 am
0
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I agree. I do wish Justus

I agree. I do wish Justus would tell us what charges could have been filed against this pilot. He broke no rules. Did the FAA inspect every single plane that flew over the Masters that week? Did Gunn call in about any other plane that was "supposedly loud"? I don't think so, they just did not like the banners and clearly an abuse of power. I can assure everyone that the FAA would probably be able to find violations on most small aircraft if they looked hard enough but doesn't mean the violations make the plane dangerous to fly. The national just thinks they are above everyone and everyone should jump when they say jump. Idiots!!!

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 05/27/10 - 06:05 am
0
0
dickworth 1, If I had an

dickworth 1, If I had an obama sticker on my car, you SHOULD be able to ban me from your neighborhood. I think there's an obscenity law. As far as the "freedom of speech" rights being the legal way to handle this, why isn't the inspection the other legal way to handle, and solve, the situation. And, it's none of you business if I wonder who the coward in hiding is. (sticking out tongue and saying nah)

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 05/27/10 - 06:15 am
0
0
Cubie, you want a stop to the

Cubie, you want a stop to the LTE section?

getsome
0
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getsome 05/27/10 - 06:28 am
0
0
Dang. Augusta Nat'l can't

Dang. Augusta Nat'l can't win for losing. Had they not taking their stance against this incident, they would have been critizied for NOT speaking up for poor little Tiger. And y'all would have been calling them racist pigs. Wonder what would have happened had the banner been something deragotory toward, say Sarah Palin....?????

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 05/27/10 - 06:47 am
0
0
Great thinking getsome. I

Great thinking getsome. I guess this was all Bush's fault, right?

KNECKBONE
26
Points
KNECKBONE 05/27/10 - 06:47 am
0
0
you didn't see my plane

you didn't see my plane flying over=tiger text me i'm a white woman-23-i work at waffle house

baronvonreich
1
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baronvonreich 05/27/10 - 07:12 am
0
0
Look at johnston.cliff

Look at johnston.cliff promoting bigger government and abuse of their authority. Smell the hypocrisy.

They seemed so worried about the safety of the plane flying over the thousands of spectators at Augusta National yet they deemed the plane ok to fly all the way back to Ohio......yep keep smelling that hypocrisy.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 05/27/10 - 07:17 am
0
0
Everyone knows that it was
Unpublished

Everyone knows that it was BS- I don't care what Mike Gunn says- the pilot was inspected BECAUSE the National called him!! He's probably got yearly Master's Badges for life now. They had no basis to inspect this plane PERIOD. Bad taste or not, what the pilot did was still perfectly legal.

ripjones
2
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ripjones 05/27/10 - 07:19 am
0
0
All of you need to be very

All of you need to be very careful when you bad-mouth Augusta National. Every year, they provide MILLIONS of dollars to local charities. I don't see any of you donating enough to make the paper. And also remember that their little golf outing, is the most economic stimulus this town gets every year.

fd1962
26
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fd1962 05/27/10 - 07:40 am
0
0
Mike Gunn and safety. Now
Unpublished

Mike Gunn and safety. Now there's a REAL joke. A call should be made on Augusta Aviation's chronic dismal mechanical safety record for planes exiting their service department over the years. You should get a discount cemetery coupon with each annual inspection endorsement. Many have made that final trip courtesy Augusta Aviation incompetence, but Mike Gunn has all the time in the world to snitch out the competition and suck up the FAA police.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 05/27/10 - 07:43 am
0
0
Ripjones. I wonder how much

Ripjones. I wonder how much the national makes from the tazpayers in cheap water, and police protection (including ticket scalping deterence)? I am sure a club with a membership worth probably a Trillion dollars can afford the couple of millions (most of which goes to a golf charity). Just proves that our entire society, including politics and legal system, is controlled by money. A very good reason why we don't need a flat tax which would allow these bums to get even more money power.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 05/27/10 - 08:26 am
0
0
dissman - And I wonder how

dissman - And I wonder how many tax dollars Augusta National pays out, in addition to the charity dollars, for all of the real estate they have bought each year. And when they pay over market for one of those houses, guess what -- the taxable value goes up. And about the Fair Tax -- they would be paying more taxes on their higher dollar purchases. Read the book -- have an informed opinion. Don't post your ignorance for all to see.

Riverman1
94198
Points
Riverman1 05/27/10 - 08:38 am
0
0
The Augusta National creates

The Augusta National creates about $100 million a year in the Augusta economy. All these hotels around here wouldn't be without the Masters. They pay for their special police protection, they pay taxes, they give millions to charity. It's like having the Super Bowl here every year. Matter of fact we draw more visitors who are wealthier than the Super Bowl does for longer stays. There's a reason the Masters is known as the greatest sporting event in the world.

AugustaFella
0
Points
AugustaFella 05/27/10 - 09:18 am
0
0
If the plane had been pulling

If the plane had been pulling an anti-Palin banner, it wouldn't only have been inspected and deemed unairworthy. Before it got to that, some good ol' boy would have pulled a shotgun out of the back of his pickup truck and blasted it out of the sky.

baronvonreich
1
Points
baronvonreich 05/27/10 - 09:45 am
0
0
ripjonesThursday, May 27 8:19

ripjonesThursday, May 27 8:19 AM All of you need to be very careful when you bad-mouth Augusta National. Every year, they provide MILLIONS of dollars to local charities. I don't see any of you donating enough to make the paper. And also remember that their little golf outing, is the most economic stimulus this town gets every year.
----------------------------------
One must scratch their head when others condone the abuse of power by those who "have money."

Smell the hypocrisy!

AWyld1
3
Points
AWyld1 05/27/10 - 10:48 am
0
0
They donate millions to

They donate millions to charity and yet they snub their noses at Augusta citizens all the time. I have no doubt what prompted the call tothe FAA. They can't have their precious rich people tourney sullied...what a joke.

afskyefan
0
Points
afskyefan 05/27/10 - 10:52 am
0
0
What is Mr. Gunn's

What is Mr. Gunn's relationship with the Augusta National? This is a freedom of speech issue. The Augusta National is a golf course. They host a premier sporting event. Does this somehow entitle them to special treatment that tramples on the fundamental rights of 'ordinary' American citizens?

Yes, they do generate millions of dollars in local revenues. It is also true that they are extremely generous in supporting local charities and philanthropic endeavors. These are certainly facts worth mentioning and applauding. They also call people trying to sell Masters merchandise on Ebay and harass them into pulling it off the site. Boo!!!

This pilot was set upon by a federal agency that was prodded into action by Mr. Gunn. Was he acting on his own initiative? Or, at the behest of the Augusta National? Only Mr. Gunn knows and I don't hear him talking.

reader54
329
Points
reader54 05/27/10 - 11:18 am
0
0
This was simply a case of

This was simply a case of selective enforcement and gov't attempts to quell free speech. "Tacky" speech is permitted under The Constitution. Would this reaction have occurred if a plane flew over the city, with a "tacky" banner, during the Gay Parade? The wealthy and connected have a different standard than the common man.

gaspringwater
3
Points
gaspringwater 05/27/10 - 01:14 pm
0
0
It's the guy's business to

It's the guy's business to tow advertising banners behind his airplane. And he'll do it wherever he can earn a buck. I personally think the messages about Tiger were offensive but I also think Mr. Gunn's claim about noise is just a smoke screen issue. The air show extravaganzas operating out of Daniel Field are even nosier but Mr. Gunn didn't mention that noise nuisance. And calling in the FAA to inspect the plane was nothing but harassment and a deliberate attempt to ground the aircraft. Notice Mr. Gunn didn't ask the FAA to inspect all the other planes using Daniel Field and flying over housing areas.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 05/27/10 - 01:55 pm
0
0
It is funny when you watch

It is funny when you watch the tournament on television you can hear airplane noise in the background of the commentators and never hear a complaint. I think Tiger and Jesse James should go on Oprah's show and have a pity party together, and tell how much they love their wives, and that is all they could think of the whole time they were having sex with these other women.

Indigo
4
Points
Indigo 05/27/10 - 04:08 pm
0
0
They should pass out

They should pass out pacifiers next year at the gates to the National. Bunch of crying babies!

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