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Pilot plans to meet with city council Monday night

A Grady County pilot who competes in aerobatic competitions sanctioned by the International Aerobatic Club is continuing to fly and practice his stunts following action by the Cairo City Council last week in an attempt to ground him.
Chris Rudd was back in the air on Monday and said he will be flying much of the week as he prepares for the Sebring Aerobatic Championship in Sebring, Fla., on May 2 and 3.
“I’ve been flying nearly eight years out of the Cairo airport and I’ve never had a complaint until now,” Rudd said.
The aerobatic pilot said in other places where he has flown people have come out to the airport to complain, but once they understand what he is doing, they are no longer concerned.
Cairo City Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas has been the most vocal city official about Rudd’s aerobatic practice here. Douglas represents northeast Cairo, which is the area nearest the airport.
The pilot said he had been practicing near the airport, but not over the city limits of Cairo, until he was asked by Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton if he could practice elsewhere.
Rudd began practicing west of Cairo, which recently drew comments from Councilman Kermit Gilliard, who represents northwest Cairo.
“I thought I was doing what I had been told. I’m trying to be a good neighbor,” Rudd said.
The stunt pilot said when he flies away from the airport he looks for places he could land the plane in the event of an emergency, so he stays near Vereen Bell Road and U.S. 84.
According to Rudd, his practice on Monday was six miles west of the Cairo Country Club and lasted for approximately 14 minutes.
“I can only fly for 15 to 20 minutes because it is so strenuous. It’s like running a five-mile race wide open,” Rudd said.
City officials had previously said that the flights were abbreviated due to a lack of fuel, but Rudd said that his plane carries enough fuel to fly for two hours.
During his maneuvers Rudd flies his plane straight up at approximately 150 miles per hour until the plane goes so high its speed drops to zero. He then rolls the plane and comes straight down to an altitude of 1,500 feet before pulling the plane back up.
“I am completely in control of the airplane at all times. I fly into the wind one time and roll in one direction and the next time I fly against the wind and roll in the opposite direction. Then I fly back to the airport and land,” Rudd said.
The reason the pilot does not dive below 1,500 feet is because in International Aerobatic Club events pilots are disqualified if their plane drops below that threshold.
“I’m training for a competition right now, and I plan to fly in several contests this year,” Rudd said. Following the Sebring event, he said he planned to fly in an event in Rome, Ga., and then in Ohio and later in Texas.
The city council instructed City Manager Chris Addleton last week to send Rudd a certified letter suspending his privileges to fly out of the Cairo Municipal Airport.
The council acted on the advice of City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman, who said it is a privilege, not a right, to fly out of the city’s airport.
However, Rudd says the council cannot restrict his use of the airport.
“I haven’t violated any law. They have no reason to suspend me,” Rudd said.
According to the pilot, since 1943 American citizens have had the right under federal law and regulations to travel across the country by air at will. He said that the city accepts federal funding to maintain the airport and that federal regulations do not allow the city to suspend his flying privileges.
Rudd is planning on meeting with the council at its next meeting on Monday night.
“I want to meet with them and clarify what is going on and find out what we can do to make things better. I’ve spent about $5,000 to get a new propeller to help with the noise, but it will not make it go away completely, but it will help. I’m not going to stop flying, but I want to be a good neighbor,” Rudd said.
Rudd said Tuesday afternoon he had not received the city’s certified letter, but he had received a notice that a letter had been received by the local post office and was awaiting his signature.
According to the city manager, the letter was not mailed until last Friday because Lehman had not been able to review it until then.
The local pilot said the aerobatic competition season runs from March through October and he prefers to practice every other day during the season in addition to half a day each weekend.
According to Rudd, his practice on Monday was the first time since he practiced on Saturday, April 12.
During his April 12 session, he said he flew four 20-minute flights over the course of six hours. Another aerobatic pilot also flew that day, Rudd said.
The pilot explained that it is helpful to have someone on the ground to watch the pilot’s maneuvers to make sure he is flying straight up and down and that the loops are round.
“When you’re flying the plane, you can’t see if you’re going straight up or coming straight down or if your loop is round. You have to have someone on the ground to help you make sure your muscle memory is correct,” Rudd said.
Rudd is also eager to lease a hangar at the airport. He currently leases space at the Quincy, Fla., airport, but due to restricted air paths for planes coming in and out of Tallahassee Regional Airport Rudd said he cannot practice his aerobatics in Quincy.
“I have not broken one single law, regulation or ordinance. If I’ve violated a noise ordinance, I will stop, but anything else that violates that noise ordinance has to stop, too,” Rudd said.
The city council will meet Monday night at 6 p.m.

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