You may have heard the news this week that a New Jersey judge tossed out a lawsuit brought by the town of Readington, which for more than a decade has tried to wrest control of Solberg Airport from the family that has owned it since 1941. But what you might have missed is what the judge had to say not just to the Readington town council but to other towns and cities across the nation that might think about trying the same dirty tricks.
N.J. Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong issued a 54-page ruling in which he blasted the town’s eminent domain land grab, a case that has dragged on for nearly 15 years, saying it amounted to a “manifest abuse of power” and a waste of local taxpayers’ dollars. He ordered the town to pay the Solberg family’s legal bills, which are expected to tally into the millions of dollars.
But he didn’t stop there. Armstrong set a new precedent by elevating GA airports to a special category, one they richly deserve. The judge had this to say:
“Not only is general aviation important to the national infrastructure, but it serves a critical role as the cradle of aviation. The security and economic vitality of the United States depends on this laboratory of flight where future civilian and military pilots are born.
“Airports such as Solberg blossomed in an era when local young men turned their dreams of barnstorming into air dominance in World War II and led this country into its golden age. These dreams still live in our youth, and general aviation endures as the proving ground for future pilots from all walks of life.
“Finally, there is a certain freedom that defines general aviation. Men and women throughout history gazed longingly at the soaring effortless freedom of birds, pondering release from the symbolic bondage of gravity.
“Only here can a man or woman walk onto some old farmer’s field and turn dreams into reality. As Charles Lindbergh once said: ‘What freedom lies in flying, what Godlike power it gives to men … I lose all consciousness in this strong unmortal space crowded with beauty, pierced with danger.'”
Cue the slow clap.