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Local pilot and city council remain at odds

The Cairo city council earlier this year attempted to suspend the flying privileges of a Grady County aerobatic pilot at the Cairo Municipal Airport, but the pilot is continuing to fly at the airport and complaint phone calls continue to be fielded by city officials.
The city council voted unanimously in April to suspend the flying privileges of Chris Rudd, 238 Smith Road, but the pilot has continued to fly and says that his practicing his aerobatic maneuvers is not illegal.
The issue arose again Monday night of this week when Rudd’s most vocal critic, Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas, questioned what was being done to put a stop to Rudd flying out of the city’s airport.
“For the last two weekends I’ve had complaints about aerobatic plane flying. I’d like to know the status of the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) investigation?” Councilman Douglas asked.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton told councilmen that he had requested the FAA conduct an investigation, but in a letter dated Aug. 5 and received on Aug. 15, FAA Aviation Safety Inspector Daniel Moen wrote to the city manager and said, “We have reviewed information provided and found insufficient evidence to proceed further with the investigation, and we consider the matter closed.”
Councilman Douglas asked if Addleton had begun the process of civil court action in the matter.
The city manager said he had spoken with city attorney Thomas L. Lehman, but no court action had been taken.
“Whatever our next recourse is I think we should proceed on,” Douglas said.
Pilot Chris Rudd attended Monday night’s council meeting and was allowed to speak by Mayor Bobby Burns.
Rudd told city fathers the FAA had contacted him and he said the investigation put his pilot’s license and his mechanic’s license “on the line.” “If they had found anything wrong I would have lost my pilot’s license and my mechanic’s license and that’s how I make my livelihood,” Rudd said.
The aerobatic pilot told councilmen that it was his understanding that FAA investigators went door to door to residences near the airport and “not a single person had anything bad to say.”
City Manager Addleton asked what were the names of the investigators and he also said that no one had contacted him. “I’m the one that requested the investigation and no one has talked with me,” Addleton said.
Rudd admitted he didn’t know the name of any FAA officials who may have been involved in the investigation, but he maintained that what he is doing is not illegal and that the city cannot prevent him from using the airport and doing aerobatic maneuvers.
Councilman Douglas said he is the one who gets the complaint calls and Rudd said he should expect such calls as a city councilman.
“I’ve done nothing wrong. When they call just tell them he is exercising his right as an American citizen. Better yet, tell them to call me. My number is 850-766-3756,” Rudd said.
Chris Rudd has been flying aerobatics out of the local airport for eight years, but local residents have been complaining to city officials about the noise and safety concerns.
He contends that the Federal Aviation Administration controls the airspace over the United States and there is no FAA regulation preventing his flying aerobatics over the airport, but he is prohibited from flying maneuvers over densely populated areas.
According to Rudd, municipalities have “no authority to suspend anyone” and he warned that if the city attempted to ban him from the airport the FAA could determine the city to be discriminating between pilots and force the city to repay federal funds invested in the airport.
The Grady County pilot competes in aerobatic competitions sanctioned by the International Aerobatic Club across the country.
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 told The Cairo Messsenger in April.
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.
Earlier this year the city attorney said the only sure way to keep Rudd from flying out of the city airport would be to take civil action against him in Superior Court unless the city and county worked together to enforce the county noise ordinance against the pilot.
“I will be flying unless I’m not breathing or the law makes it illegal,” Rudd told city councilmen this week. He added, “there has to be some give and take. I’ve done everything right and I haven’t broken any laws.”

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