Pilots take aim at proposed gun range - FOX 13 News

Pilots take aim at proposed gun range

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LAND O' LAKES (FOX 13) -

For flying enthusiasts, there are few places better to live than with your own airplane in the backyard and a runway in the middle of the neighborhood.

Such is life at Pilot Country Airport. It's a quiet, and perhaps most importantly, an uncongested chuck of airspace. But things may be changing.

"It's quite an unusual situation we have developing here," airport manager Rex Myers explained.

Pilots worry the airspace above their neighborhood could be threatened by a planned gun range. The 13-acre range would be located on a vacant piece of land next door.

Pasco County is being asked to approve the range on State Road 52 east of Land O' Lakes.

According to Skip Drish, chief instructor at Investigations and Security Training Academy, "...we think we've found a perfect spot." He pointed out there is little else in the area.

Not so, said Bob Millaway, who lives east of the proposed range in the Pasco Trails subdivision.

"I was aghast. We've been here for 20 years. It's not that we don't like guns, it's that a gun range does not belong here."

Drish insists the range would be no louder than cows grazing nearby. He also maintains the range poses no risk to aircraft.

"It's not just standing out in the middle of a field shooting at targets, it's got a roof two inches thick, a concrete structure over the top of you, it's got cinderblock walls."

Drish showed FOX 13 a letter from John Collins, the manager of airport policy for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. In it, Collins wrote, "...there are a number of airports that have gun ranges near them, including here at Frederick [Maryland] and there haven't been any issues of planes being shot at."

Perhaps that's because the closest gun range to the Frederick Municipal Airport is nearly three miles away. In Land O' Lakes the gun range would be roughly 1,000 feet from Pilot Country and the flight pattern would take airplanes directly over the range.

"We approach directly overhead," according to pilot and resident Mark Budd. "It's just too close. Who ever thought of putting a gun range right nextdoor to an airport?"

Myers, the airport manager, has flown worldwide. He was a captain of a Boeing 767.

"I've seen a notice to airman for everything -- birds on airports, radio towers -- but never a gun range in the [flight] pattern."

Drish said he has asked to meet with Pilot Country homeowners more than a half-dozen times. So far, he maintains, they have refused to meet.

His proposed gun range has been on Pasco County Commissioner's agenda at least once. The issue has now been delayed until November.

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