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Editorial - See 135th on the ground

September 09, 1997

Affter more than a year of planning, the ceremony commemorating the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam will get under way this weekend. Everything that could be planned - traffic control, comfort stations and emergency medical services, to name a few - has been planned.

Now organizers are worried about the one area they can't control - the skies. With no legal authority to ban flyovers of the site by hot-air balloons or private planes, they are appealing to pilots and balloon operators not to intrude on the event.

We second that appeal, even as we lament the fact that neither the state government or the Federal Aviation Administration could find a way to prevent airborne rubber-neckers from detracting from the event. According to Maryland Del. Bruce Poole, the FAA said that it could only ban flyovers if there was some natural disaster, or if President Clinton were attending the commemoration.

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It is not enough, apparently, that the president has been invited to attend, or that there might be some danger to re-enactors and spectators if a small plane were to buzz the event. The common sense that should have brought about a ban on flyovers apparently cannot be applied here unless the president confirms he will attend - unlikely at this point - or a tornado touches down on site.

That leaves one only tool to punish anyone who decides that their "right" to disrupt this event - a boycott. Any business which allows its corporate plane or balloon to fly over the site should be the subject of a consumer boycott. And if that's not enough, the employer of any pilot who does such things should also be shunned by consumers.

To avoid that, employers should be giving their employees this word right now: You are our representatives, and if you do anything to diminish this event, whether or not it's on company time, you will be in hot water.

If you want to see this event, buy a ticket, and see the action just as someone would have seen it 135 years ago - on the ground.

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