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Landowners at odds with FAA over aviation equipment on farm

Federal aviation officials say a massive crop-watering structure creates radio interference for pilots over Georgia, but landowners say they had permission for it to be within 1,000 feet (300-meters) of the communications equipment. / Photo: MGN Online

Federal aviation officials say a massive crop-watering structure creates radio interference for pilots over Georgia, but landowners say they had permission for it to be within 1,000 feet (300-meters) of the communications equipment.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the irrigation structure on a south Georgia farm interferes with its radio transmitter to relay signals to aircraft.

In a lawsuit filed late last year, federal officials said the structure compromised flight safety and forced the FAA to shut down its transmitter in February 2017, affecting the operations of nine airports. The proximity of Robins Air Force Base makes the situation even more serious, the government said in its complaint.

The lawsuit doesn't suggest the irrigation structure is actively transmitting a signal. Rather, it says the huge metal framework is degrading the FAA's signal, which is susceptible to "reflection or scattering" by nearby structures.

But in recently filed court documents, the landowners say the federal government had waived the requirement and allowed the irrigation equipment to be placed closer to the communications antenna on their Pulaski County farm. They cite a July 2017 email from an FAA official as evidence that the agency granted them a waiver of the distance requirement.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is seeking an injunction that would force the defendants to move the structure at the farm about 130 miles (210 kilometers) southeast of Atlanta.

A Macon attorney representing the landowners didn't immediately reply to email and phone messages Tuesday. The FAA has said it doesn't comment on litigation.

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