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Mon, Jan 14, 2002

California Court Upholds Local No-Banner Law

Honolulu Aerial Ad Ban Flies on Appeal

In October of 1998, US District Judge Helen Gillmor denied the right of SkySign International to challenge a Honolulu (HI) ordinance banning helicopter banner-towing. That denial was upheld last week, by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the 1998 ruling, Gillmor said the city had, "an overwhelming aesthetic interest" in the ban, because Hawaii's tourism industry depends so much on the "beauty of the islands."

SkySign, for its part, noted that the airspace wasn't regulated by cities. In the October 1997 suit, SkySign pointed out that the FAA, which, until that time, was in charge of such things, had properly permitted the business to tow banners in US airspace. The Honolulu City Council decided to overrule the FAA, and SkySign was left to defend its right to make a living. That right was denied, after a year, by Judge Helen; her ruling was affirmed by the appeals court.

The ruling was possible because the Court considered SkySign's emphasis to be "advertising," rather than "flying," a precedent that could open a huge can of worms, and will, we predict, eviscerate the FAA's authority over the airspace. The Court acknowledged that SkySign was somehow connected to flying, it ruled, "...however, advertising is an area traditionally subject to regulation under the states' police power, and we therefore presume that federal law does not displace Honolulu's regulatory authority over advertising absent a clear statement of the federal intent to do so." [By that reasoning, we suppose the cities could  authorize anyone's flying over a populated area, if the city were the one which was advertising. Since the pilot wouldn't be involved in "aviation," but rather in "advertising," why should the FAA have anything to say about it? --ed]

The City Council said it had been responding to citizens' complaints about the 8' x36' electric-lighted sign that SkySign typically displayed off Oahu's beaches.



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