The Yellow Airplane did not appear to be in distress when it landed and landed at Jeffrey Walker’s property in Afton on Sunday afternoon.
In fact, a video shot by a neighbor shows the airplane successfully taking off in a cloudy blue sky.
But except in emergencies, airplane takeoff and landing in Afton is illegal, and city ordinance prohibits airports, airstrips, and heliports within city limits.
On Sunday, neighbors called the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to report that a yellow plane with a red midsection lands on the property at about 3:48 a.m. and takes off at about 3:52 p.m. This is the fourth time this year that neighbors have called the sheriff’s office at 1022 Indian Trail South to investigate reports of small planes taking off and landing on the property.
Now, the city attorney is reviewing Afton’s case involving Walker, 57.
This would not be Walker’s first run-in with the law regarding “Walker Field Airport”, as referred to on some aviation websites.
Sheriff’s representatives were called to the site nine times between November 2005 and July 2007 to investigate reports of small aircraft taking off and landing. In December 2006, Walker was cited for violating a city ordinance, but barred all but emergency aircraft landings.
Two years later, he was charged with two misdemeanors for building an illegal airstrip in Afton. The allegations stemmed from a May 2008 visit by Afton’s code-enforcement officer to Walker’s 80-acre property. According to the criminal complaint, the code-enforcement officer “performed a visual inspection of the Walker property and saw the remains of the runway.”
The criminal complaint alleges that Walker submitted documents describing the airstrip to the Federal Aviation Administration in February 2004, and aerial photographs taken in June 2004 show the runway under construction.
A mechanic’s lien filed against the Walker property by Precision Excavating & Grading in November 2004 stated that the company “excavated for the construction of an airstrip, airplane hangar, building site, future home site, including machines for the airstrip.” of time, labor and culvert material is involved in the access road,” according to the complaint.
A neighbor saw a small yellow plane landing at the runway in December 2006, the complaint said.
City administrator Ron Moorese said the city prevailed in court in 2009, and a judge ruled that Walker should plant a tree in the middle of the runway, rendering it unusable. It is not clear whether that tree was ever planted.
“I thought it was resolved in 2009, but apparently it was not,” said Mayor Bill Palmquist. “Somehow, it has been used again, and we have to go through that whole (legal) process again. (airstrips) Not permitted for use in offshore. It’s disappointing that all this has to be dealt with again.”
City Attorney Fritz Knack said city officials have no choice but to enforce city ordinances.
“It is very clear that the same plane that was reported there earlier this year was back again on Sunday,” he said. “At this point, all indications lead us to believe that it is Mr. Walker using his private airstrip … to illegally land an airplane on private property. Neighbors very angry Huh.”
Knack said that anyone who takes an aerial view of the Walker property from Google Earth can easily see the illegal airstrip. “I refuse to tell anyone that this is not an airstrip,” he said.
Walker contacted a reporter for Pioneer Press during a phone call on Tuesday afternoon.