Aerial Advertising Ban Challenged In Hawaii

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A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will soon decide whether Hawaii has the legal authority to allow the city of Honolulu to ban aerial advertising. An anti-abortion group is appealing the ban, which has been in place since 2002, so it can pull above the beaches and other populated areas of the city 50-by-100-foot banners adorned with images of aborted fetuses. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform argues that airspace is a federal responsibility and the state, which has passed legislation supporting Honolulu's ban, has no business trying to regulate it. It would appear the FAA thinks the same way. The same court has already upheld the advertising ban once, but that was when the FAA handbook noted that aircraft flying lower than 1,000 feet must "understand and obey local and state ordinances that may prohibit or restrict banner tow operations." When the court took that passage into consideration in its earlier ruling, the FAA struck it from the handbook because it "wanted to make it perfectly clear that the FAA still retained sole authority over airspace," according to an FAA spokesman. Except over events covered by temporary flight restrictions, the FAA permits banner towing. If the court overturns the Hawaii ban, the state may ask for federal legislation on banner towing to, as the editorial writer for the Honolulu Star Bulletin put it, "keep the skies free of offensive images."