Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thank goodness the runaway blimp was not near here!!

Yuma council approves amendment restricting use of large inflatables near airport
December 5, 2007 - 10:41PM

The Yuma City Council officially amended the city code Wednesday night to regulate the use of large balloons and other inflatable devices. This issue was brought to the city in March by representatives from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the Yuma International Airport.

Both organizations had experienced incidents where pilots were forced to maneuver around clusters of balloons that had broken away from their tethers and drifted into the flight path. "The real driving force behind the balloon regulation is the airport. That's how it really came to light," said Mayor Larry Nelson.

The City Council approved the amendment unanimously during its regular meeting. "It honestly does pose a flight hazard," said Craig Williams, airport director. "They float up in the sky and wind up in the path of aircraft. ... The flight path of an aircraft is much more than the runway. It encompasses what's a visual overhead pattern. ... It gets real complicated." Capt. Rob Dolan, MCAS Yuma public affairs officer, added that balloons could also be ingested into the engines of aircraft during flight, disrupting the craft's ability to perform.

Incidents like this were once not uncommon when car dealerships along 32nd Street, near the airport, were using extremely large balloons or long streamers of balloons in their advertising. However, after they were made aware of the issue, that type of advertising dissipated. Dolan said MCAS has not had a balloon-related incident since March. The case is the same at the airport. "About a year ago, when you drove down 32nd, there were balloons all over the place." "From my perspective, the car dealers have been very responsible. I think all we had to do was point out the safety issue," Williams said. Smaller, more easily tethered balloons are still used in lots.

Some provisions of the ordinance include:
• Individual balloons/inflatable devices or strings of balloons shall not be flown higher than the building located on the site.
• It shall be unlawful for any person to allow individual balloons to cross into the public right-of-way, whether in the air or on the ground.
• The first violation is punishable as a class 3 misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $500, by imprisonment for not more than one day, or by both fine or imprisonment. A second violation is punishable as a class 2 misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $750 or by imprisonment for not more than five days or by both. A third violation could result in a fine of as much as $1,000 and/or up to 10 days imprisonment.

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