Federal Officials Investigating Complaint About “Low-Flying” Aviator in Laguna Beach

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This banner was towed by a single-engine plane above Downtown Laguna on May 2, 2020. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a complaint about an allegedly low-flying, banner-towing aircraft over North Laguna on Saturday.

Federal regulations require aviators, including those towing banners, to maintain an altitude of at least 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle over any city or any open-air assembly of people.

“We investigate the safety of an operation, but we do not regulate whatever message might be on the banner,” FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor wrote in an email Monday.

The complainant was unable to provide a tail number to federal authorities. Investigators still might be able to identify the aircraft by other means, such as air traffic radar replays, Gregor said.

A timeline for a decision on whether any federal aviation laws were violated wasn’t available.

Sgt. Jim Cota, a spokesperson for the Laguna Beach Police Department, wrote in an email that officers did not report the aircraft because they didn’t see it violate any federal laws.

The Independent observed a single-engine plane circling above Downtown Laguna around 2:30 p.m. towing a banner with an image of Gov. Gavin Newsom with a Hitler mustache next to “end his tyranny!” during the protest at Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue. Around 3 p.m. it was spotted flying toward Laguna Beach High School.

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