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Thu, Sep 21, 2023

Beyond Belief: S Carolina Town Bans 'Ultralight' Operations at Local Airport

Sins of the Holly Hill Town Council

"Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." –Benjamin Franklin, 11 November 1755

The town council of Holly Hill, a 1,277-resident hamlet in south-central South Carolina’s Orangeburg County, has promulgated an ordinance prohibiting operations of ultralight aircraft massing less-than six-hundred-pounds at Holly Hill Airport (5J5).

Handed down on Monday, 18 September 2023, the council’s legally-questionable fiat was predicated largely upon two aircraft accidents, both of which involved 'ultralight-type' aircraft, transpired at the Holly Hill airport during the preceding 12-months. Councilmembers rationalized their collective  overreach, ascribing such to a nebulous obligation to protect the health and welfare of the town’s citizenry. 

Holly Hill Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter president David Chandler stated: “The issues and accidents that happen with these light aircraft, they’re not the airplanes fault. The airplane is not the issue. They’re not breaking up, they’re not falling apart; it’s the pilot who’s making a poor decision to go fly it outside of its limitations.”

Mr. Chandler purchased a Quad City Challenger 2 prior to the ordinance’s passage—an aircraft he may no longer operate at the Holly Hill Airport so long as the abjectly inane ordinance remains in place.. and he reports that he has been told by a city official to "get that thing off my airport..." with 30 days to do so. .

The town’s original ordinance restricted aircraft under 600-pounds though the original wording allegedly specified 254-pound ultralight... even though both the aforementioned accidents involved aircraft that exceeded that weight and did not meet the definition... unfortunately, someone told the city of their error(s) and they rewrote the ordinance to cover a number of non-ultralight, registered, aircraft. 

At present, operations of aircraft massing fewer than six-hundred-pounds at 5J5 constitute misdemeanors in Holly Hill, South Carolina. Violators of the preposterous ordinance face fines of up to $500 and/or imprisonment. A bit of highly questionable, if not downright unAmerican, legal-ease that ANN's Jim Campbell is giving serious consideration to going up and testing out. 

The business of citing ostensible hazard as justification for infringing upon citizens’ personal freedoms has become a de rigueur tactic in 21st-century America.

The notion of banning ultralight aircraft on account of two accidents, and for the purpose of protecting human life is tantamount to banning forks on account of obesity and pencils on account of spelling errors.

Taken to its reasonable conclusion, the argument employed by Holly Hill’s town council will see small automobiles banned upon the second occurrence of accidents involving such within the town limits. The reasoning—in point of fact, the lack thereof—is easily ascribable to shoe styles, in the event of two falls; kitchen ranges, in the event of two burned fingers; and candies, in the event of two cavities.

ANN Editor-In-Chief Note: I have spent the day chatting with a number of folks throughout the industry... including some officials from Holly Hill... and to say the least, the day has been 'educational.' One person, IDing themselves as a City Council member claimed that two 'ultralight accidents' in the last couple of years made this ordinance necessary... and when I noted that we had seen reports of that many, and more, car accidents in the area in the same timeframe, in their local media, I politely asked when we could expect the ban on automobiles... the conversation was terminated shortly thereafter. Calls to the mayor have not been answered but responses by EAA and USUA have been telling...  

EAA responds, "...On first look at the ordinance, we see no valid reason for such a ban..."

Roy Beisswenger, of the US Ultralight Association, adds that, "

“Training and verification of individual pilot credentials is a more just and legal approach than a blanket ban on an entire legal category of ultralights. USUA has used a similar philosophy when insuring pilots in our very successful third-party insurance program. Showing that the applicant has received some kind of training has proved to be a valid approach that has worked for years. Validating training can take all kinds of forms including an FAA pilot certificate, a CFI endorsement to solo, or training through a program like the USPPA for powered paragliders. A lot of FAA-certificated pilots fly ultralights, making some ultralight pilots more qualified than some general aviation pilots. If two Cessna 172s were involved in accidents at or near the airport, would the airport ban all Cessna 172s, all general aviation aircraft or all airplanes?”
Ahem.... exactly.
We'll have a lot more to report on this, down the line, as we look at the ordinance itself and some other documents coming our way... and maybe after a few intelligent conversations with city officials and some of the airport residents... this should be interesting... and yes, if this persists, I am highly inclined to find the right aircraft and fly up to see if they want to arrest me for committing aviation in a manner deemed wholly legal outside the environs of Holly Hill.  It's been a long time since I got a decent mug shot anyway (grin). Yup... this could get REALLY interesting. 


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