Federal Court to Hear State Court Injunction Against Airport

MAY 19, 2000

City of Keene officials are heading to federal court in hopes of stopping the town of Swanzey from shutting down a helicopter school. In April Swanzey won a court battle to shut down Green River Aviation, a flight school at airport, for violating noise ordinances. (See Court Says City Has Authority to Close Down Helicopter Pilot School, April 28, 2000.) The Keene city government owns the airport, although it is located entirely in Swanzey.

The flight school said the Federal Aviation Administration was in charge of Dillant Hopkins Airport, but Swanzey said it had control. The Superior Court judge ruled that in land use and environmental issues, Swanzey had authority.

But Keene officials are challenging that ruling, and say they have an obligation to keep the helicopter school open and the airport fully operating. "Regrettably, the City of Keene finds itself in a no-win situation. It has no choice, however, but to protect the interests of the flying public as well as the national interest of assuring access to the airport for all modes of flight operations, including helicopter flights by Green River Aviation," said Ovide Lamontagne, the city's lawyer.

Keene also is concerned that the Superior Court ruling could give Swanzey the right to control certain airport operations. Keene officials say Swanzey has no jurisdiction over the airport, and Federal Aviation Administration rules take precedence.

"We have an interest in the matter, in the operation of the airport," said John MacLean, city manager. "We've assured the (Federal Aviation Administration) that certain activities will take place at the airport." In the meantime, however, the helicopter school has continued to operate while appealing the Superior Court decision. Swanzey officials have retaliated by asking the court to hold Green River in contempt.

Source: Associated Press, in Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

See Green River Aviation website.