Sat, Jun 12, 2010
FAA Says Town Cannot Prevent Banner Towing, Local Ordinance Not
Hilton Head Island in South Carolina has a local ordinance
against aerial advertising, which it passed in 1993. At the time,
city leaders saw the banners towed behind airplanes in the same way
as any other sign, which are strictly regulated.
So when a plane towing a banner for GEICO insurance proceeded
slowly up the beach last weekend, some residents complained to city
hall, which attempted to contact the plane's owner to tell him
about the law. What they found was they may not be able to ban the
banners, no matter how "annoying" some think they are.
The Island Packet reports that FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salak told
the city that "The Federal Aviation Administration controls the
civil airspace for the United States of America," adding that
federal law supersedes any local ordinance. She said that as long
as the aircraft is being operated safely, there is nothing to stop
them from flying pretty much anywhere in the country. (Try telling
that to someone who's unwittingly violated a TFR or Class B
The pilot, who was working for Aerial Banners North, was
actually supposed to be flying over Savannah, but reportedly
"became bored" and saw more activity at Hilton Head, so he made a
detour. Company owner Bob Benyo said the pilot should have stayed
over Savannah, but strongly disagrees with Hilton Head's ordinance.
He said when he got the call from the city, he "laughed and said
'when did you guys purchase the airspace from the federal
government'." Benyo said if he had a client that wanted it, he'd
fly a banner over Hilton Head just to challenge the law.
But the story is unlikely to end there. The paper reports that
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Honolulu County, HI
ordinance that bans aerial advertising. The court agreed that the
county had a right to protect its tourism industry by keeping the
airspace clear of advertising.
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