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Morris formally objects to aerobatic box

Church, farmer also raise concerns about practice space

Published: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 7:06 a.m. CST

The Morris City Council approved a resolution on a 7-1 vote Monday evening objecting to the Federal Aviation Administration's approval early in May of an aerobatic practice box near Morris Municipal Airport for the International Aerobatic Club Chapter 1.

The box, which is 3,600-by-3,600-feet and extends from ground level to an altitude of 5,000 feet, is used by pilots to practice aerobatic maneuvers.

"We're not objecting to the box," said Alderman and Airport Committee Chairman Julian Houston. "We're objecting to the location of the box."

If the box remains in its current location, it will continue to hinder the safety and well-being of people flying in and out of the airport, as well as the surrounding area, the city council argued.

"The aerobatic box is located in direct conflict with the crosswind and downwind legs and the existing downwind approach pattern for the runway at the Morris Municipal Airport," according to the resolution.

The box could also potentially have a negative effect on "noise sensitive areas," like churches, as well as nearby livestock farms, according to letters from the members of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Morris and Henry F. Babson, president of Gustavus Babson Farm Co. Inc. in Morris.

Mayor Richard Kopczick also noted the box was approved by the FAA prior to the city having any knowledge of it at all.

"The (two-year) waiver was approved before the city even knew it," Kopczick said. "In the documentation, it said it was brought before the city council with full approval. It was never before city council and I could take you back to the 1800s in city minutes."

Pilots were able to fly in the box for the first time Sunday, June 3, according to local aerobatic pilot Randy Michael.

"Everything seemed to go pretty good," Michael said during the airport committee meeting prior to the city council meeting."I'm a local pilot and I have an interest in the airport and safety. The last thing I want to do is see anybody, either on the aerobatics side or the civilians side, get hurt."

The pilot said he was not a part of the establishment of the box, but is glad to have the opportunity to use it and hopes the issue can move forward.

"We want to be good neighbors," Michael said. "We'd like to be able to use the aerobatic box. We'd like it to be a win-win for everybody."

He then pitched the idea of a second box in another location that could be used when the original box was deemed unsafe. The proximity to the airport is beneficial for the pilots in the case of any type of failures on the aircraft.

"We'd have that option to try to get back to the airport," Michael said.

To the noise complaints, Michael also observed Sunday that the sound of the planes was overtaken by the sound of motorcycle traffic on Illinois 47.

With the resolution from the city, the FAA will now know the city council's opinion on the box, Houston said.

"The church objects. The farmer objects. We object," he said.

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