When Paul Blanchette, 56, moved into his new home in Burlington, Conn., last August, he thought he was moving into a friendly neighborhood. But instead of receiving warm cookies and welcoming hellos, Blanchette was met by a flurry of protests intent on disallowing him his favorite hobby -- flying his beloved chopper.
Blanchette's hobby is not illegal – he is within his rights to fly his chopper over his house. A state regulation says only that he can't take off from residential land more than 36 times a year, the equivalent of 18 round trips.
But a group of his neighbors, calling itself the Burlington Residential Airspace Safety Organization, wants to outlaw Blanchette's hobby and plans to file an ordinance to restrict aviation activity in residential areas at a board meeting Tuesday night.
Paul Stadler, one of Blanchette's neighbors and a pilot himself, said that safety is the crux of the issue.
"The town zoning board doesn't have any aviation ordinances. We don't want a helicopter creating risk," Stadler said.
All the protest has taken Blanchette by surprise. In his former Taine Mountain neighborhood in nearby Bristol, he flew his helicopter regularly and said his neighbors never complained.
"Taine Mountain is a nice neighborhood, and I assumed it would be the same kind of people here -- kind, considerate, neighborly," Blanchette told ABC News.com. "I'm hurt, because no one ever approached me. No one." Blanchette said he first heard about his neighbors' objections from a letter Stadler had been stuffing into mailboxes. The letter, obtained by ABC News, read, "We will continually listen to the noise and be concerned about possible accidents, forest fires, possible loss of life and pollution of water tables."
Blanchette has had a commercial license to fly his plane since 2004, and said he's used his plane only for recreation and charitable purposes – not to make money -- and keeps the helicopter parked at his registered helipad located at the Ultimate Companies in Bristol, where he works. He said he would never fly it over anyone's home.
Stadler, along with 180 other neighbors, said he just wants to get the town to evaluate any potential danger. Although Blanchette owns 4.5 acres, Stadler said the neighborhood is surrounded by a heavily wooded area that could easily catch fire in the event of an accident.
But Jeffrey Bond, spokesman for the Burlington Fire Department, said the risk of an accident is small.
"History has shown benefits of an aircraft, and if you look at examples, aircraft incidents are small and rarely occur with a helicopter," said Bond.
Blanchette said that if the ordinance is passed, he would of course comply with it. He just wants one of his neighbors to talk to him about it.