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Fri, Jul 22, 2005

Federal Judge Upholds Ruling Against Indiana Helo Pilot

Says Dan Hoagland Can't Fly From His Home-Based Landing Pad

John Travolta can do it. Ron Martin can do it. But a federal appeals court judge says Dan Hoagland can't fly his helicopter to and from a landing pad adjacent to his own home.

Hoagland has been locked in a legal fight with the town of Clear Lake, IN, since 1996. That's when Hoagland installed the helicopter pad at home so he could commute by air to his electrical business in Fort Wayne.

Less than a year later, the city sent Hoagland a letter telling him it was illegal for aircraft to take off or land within its borders.

Two years after that, the town filed a lawsuit against Hoagland. It was settled when Hoagland agreed to limit his hours of flight operations.

But then, the town enacted a new zoning law that severely limited flight operations. It required a special-use permit for airstrips and helo pads and refused to allow those already existing -- like Hoagland's -- to operate for more than five years. So it was back to court.

The fact that the FAA approved the helo pad meant nothing to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Hoagland's lawyer had argued that, with FAA approval, the town had no jurisdiction in the case. The court disregarded that, however, upholding a lower court ruling against Hoagland.

“Dan is a trooper,” attorney John Price told the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. “He knows he’s right, and he knows the authorities in the town of Clear Lake have not been, for lack of a better term, treating him properly. And he will continue to fight for his rights as an American citizen.”

But town officials were clearly gleeful over Monday's court victory.

“Of course we’re thrilled any time we’re able to get good news like that,” town board member Tony Kraus told the Journal-Gazette. “The fact that the town is successful, I’m happy for the people of Clear Lake.”

Now what?

Price said Hoagland hasn't yet decided whether to continue his appeals. As long as his suits are pending, he'll be allowed to continue flying from his private pad without penalty.

As those appeals run out, however, the case could end up before the US Supreme Court.

FMI: www.clearlakeindiana.org

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