Flight story only ends in futility

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How does this long saga end?

No, we’re not talking about “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” you crazy Muggle. We’re referring to the contentious issue of low-level flights in Western Maine, which, quite unlike the last Potter novel from J. K. Rowling, had its conclusion released to the world earlier this month.

It came when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a Colorado case regarding low-level flights there by the Air National Guard, which ended 13 years of resistance from a cadre of groups that opposed the flights for similar reasons as those in Western Maine.

More than 1,000 volunteer hours and $1 million went into the series of appeals, The Associated Press reported. Bob Senderhauf, a longtime opponent, said the flights actually hadn’t been “that numerous or bothersome.”

Western Maine can learn from Colorado, especially the lesson that taking the flights into court for resolution could become a lengthy, expensive exercise in futility, over a perceived threat that’s less annoying than thought.

This story should not be repeated here.

If Colorado shows divisiveness on low-level flights leads nowhere, the impassioned debate in Western Maine so far proves there’s room for the Air National Guard to present more detailed assessments of the flights’ potential impact on the region’s people and environment.

In recent days, the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association – in expressing opposition to the low-level flights – injected salient new points into the debate, most important the argument that a similar training area in upstate New York is more convenient for the bases seeking to use Western Maine.

Using both areas for this training, AOPA says, would be an inefficient use of resources. The chance for an alternative as a resolution hasn’t been mentioned much, and deserves full exploration.

Public comment regarding the Maine flights has been extended again to Aug. 15. It seems this deadline could be extended into perpetuity, and debate would still rage fiercely. Western Maine has spoken its piece. Now it’s time for the Air National Guard to show all its cards and present its best case.

As from Colorado, we know how this story ends. And we don’t want to go there.

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