Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seaplane pilot fined $400 for takeoff

Mark Futch has been picking up island passengers in his seaplane for more than two decades, and was “taken aback” Thursday when he received his first fine.

After hearing the case for an hour, including arguments and questioning from Futch’s attorneys, the Code Enforcement Board ordered Futch to pay $400 for taking off within the corporate limits of town.

Lead Code Enforcement Officer Rob Walton said he saw Futch’s plane taxiing east of Everglades Island toward 336 El Vedado Road on Feb. 22. He said Futch picked up a passenger, and luggage and taxied his plane to the open waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. “I did not witness the plane take off.”

But, a gardener at the El Vedado Road estate, said he did witness Futch take off. What was unclear, was where Futch took off.

Walton said the corporate limits of town go to the middle of the Intracoastal Waterway channel. There are no “town limit” markers in the water, but “the channel markers would mark the edge of town,” he said.

Norman Cannella, Futch’s attorney, said his client shouldn’t be fined because no one could say for sure where Futch was when he took off.

“We don’t know whether the airplane was ever in city limits when it was taking off,” he said. “Any seaplane pilot that decides to fly around the area that encompasses Palm Beach has no idea of where those limits lie.”

Futch did say he took off in the channel because of “operational procedures,” but wasn’t sure if he was in “the confines of town limits.”

Futch said he runs the oldest-continuing operating seaplane business in Florida, which he started in 1987, with many of his customers from Palm Beach.

The board ordered him to pay $150 in administrative costs and a $250 fine.

“I voted the way I did because it’s not up to us to decide whether it’s marked correctly or not,” said member Alan Golboro. “We’re dealing in the law and this survey shows our town line goes to mid-channel and the channel is within our corporate limits.”


No comments:

Post a Comment