The New Hampshire Department of Safety has denied a petition to establish a “no-aviation zone” on a portion of the Bellamy River.
AOPA testified in opposition to the petition that was also strongly opposed by pilots’ groups who rallied to preserve seaplane and rotorcraft pilots’ access to the river near the city of Dover in southeastern New Hampshire.
“The community of pilots came together, including some from neighboring Maine and Massachusetts to give testimony in support of fellow pilots and attest to the overall safety of general aviation as a safe form of transportation and recreation,” said Sean Collins, AOPA eastern regional manager.
On behalf of the association’s 2,000 members in New Hampshire, Collins testified at a hearing on the petition and submitted a letter with AOPA Airport Policy Manager Adam Williams to New Hampshire Public Safety Commissioner John J. Barthelmes.
Collins credited AOPA member Karl Leinsing for alerting the association and the New Hampshire Pilots Association that a petition—citing safety, environmental, and noise arguments—for denying seaplanes access to the segment of the Bellamy River had been filed.
As a result of their action, petition opponents outnumbered its supporters three-to-one at the Sept. 2 hearing, pointing out in detailed presentations that there was no history of accidents, problems, or complaints about aircraft using the river, and testifying to pilots’ training and qualifications to conduct operations.
The department of safety concurred with the pro-aviation commenters, noting in a 21-page ruling that “not a single incident occurred on or even near the area” where the ban was requested.
“The community rallied in support of one of our local pilots trying to protect his right to use a water resource in his front yard,” said David DeVries, president of the New Hampshire Pilots Association. “The turnout for the hearing was exceptional and the pilots who spoke against the petition were all professional, articulate, and very dedicated to protecting private aviation.”
Steve Williams, representing the National Seaplane Pilots Association, also spoke at the hearing, and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation “weighed in with their support,” DeVries said, adding, “I feel strongly that one of the main missions of the New Hampshire Pilots Association is to bring action any time general aviation is threatened in our area.”
Collins said the response demonstrated that the pilot community knows how to rally to defend its rights.
“The outpouring of support for aviation spanning three states was inspiring to me as a regional industry representative,” Collins said. “Pilots have Karl Leinsing and his colleagues to thank for taking the reins to stop this petition—a great job by all.”