AYER -- Amy and David McCoy's 65-acre farm has spectacular views, a massive barn and a log cabin where their three sons keep the young couple busy.
The semi-remoteness should equate to quiet, but for 20 years low-flying aircraft have pierced that calm.
McCoy says his fight is an air war that is very personal, and that every court motion or media interview leads to increased, and lower-flying, air traffic in retribution. A local pilot trainer denies there's any coordinated effort, and that the McCoys live in a very quiet area in the flight path of several regional schools.
In 2008 the McCoys and other members of the Groton/Ayer Buzz group won a non-monetary settlement against Executive Flyers Association, a flight school based at Hanscom Field in Bedford. The contents and conditions of the settlement are confidential per mutual agreement.
In 2014, the McCoys returned to court, saying the original settlement has been violated repeatedly. A settlement was reached in 2017, McCoy says. A month later, Executive Flyers Association closed.
The problems persist, he says.
"The point is," McCoy says, "there are no flight schools or airports in or near Ayer. These pilots are coming from Hanscom, Bedford, Nashua, Stow and Fitchburg."
He says he has filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation Aeronautical Division, the state's air travel. The result, he says: more, longer, lower flights.
Mark Holzwarth, owner of East Coast Aero Club at Hanscom Field, trains pilots for licensure, and rents out planes. He's also one of the people McCoy blames, because Holzwarth's business was next to Executive's.
Is McCoy being targeted?
"Absolutely not," he says. "It is (McCoy's) 'perception of noise' that makes it seem like we are closer than we really are."
"We fly 15,000 hours per year out of here," he says. "It's not an unusual amount of activity over his area based on the total number of flights."
McCoy says flight schools are based at Hanscom, and in Fitchburg, Nashua and Stow. He adds that the Ayer area is sparsely populated, and air space is not restricted.
"With all these pilots in the air, we need to spread out over the region, while avoiding congested areas," he says.
McCoy and Holzwarth agree on this much: The closing of Moore Field at Devens in 1997 made the area more attractive to pilots, and that old landing strip is a great place for training exercises.
Holzwarth adds that he tells pilots to fly over and around the Interstate 495 area because it's noisier than farmland.
"We fly more over the "golf ball building" (MIT Haystack Observatory) in Westford and we don't get any complaints from anyone over there. In fact, we get hardly any complaints except for the people who live close to Hanscom."
Holzwarth added that if someone rents a plane from him, "I can't tell them where to fly it anymore than Hertz-Rent-a-Car can tell their customers where to drive."
McCoy points to an FAA "fly friendly" policy that "encourages pilots to avoid flying over neighborhoods containing hospitals, schools and nursing homes," all of which are near his home.
McCoy, who home-schools his children, has compiled a list of flight schools and their principal owners along with a comprehensive roster of pilots. He also video-records flights, logging the plane tail number. "I sometimes go to the airport where it will return to then take pictures of it landing and of the pilots as they get out," he says.
Holzwarth, a retired U.S. Air Force officer with more than 30 years of service, is skeptical of McCoy's videos because they are shot with a zoom lens and lack perspective.
Two of the original members of the Groton/Ayer Buzz group have moved out of town, but the McCoys have no intention of surrendering. They have filed dozens of telephone and written complaints with the FAA and DOT and have shared their frustrations with state Sen, Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Sheila Harrington.
Eldridge says he has met with McCoy and seen his evidence. He agrees Ayer's air space is attractive, but, "Clearly this is causing difficulty in the McCoys' quality of life ... It's a frustrating situation and unclear how it will end."
Policy changes would have little effect because of the jurisdictional ambiguity between state and federal regulations, he says. "The best thing we can do now," says Eldridge. "Is find a way to communicate to pilots that it's up to them to not fly too low."
McCoy, a retired engineering teacher, recites every state and federal law that is being broken several times per day. He and his wife, an independent financial planner who has a home office, are exasperated.
"The thing is," said Holzwarth, "we are not breaking any laws or violating any policy. So there's nothing to enforce." Of the 'flight path records' that McCoy catalogs and posts, Holzwarth said, "Yes, they do show repeated passes over a single area. That is part of the training, But those are done over the airstrip, you can see the McCoys' house is a mile away from there. The pilots fly over his house on their way to other places, not to do maneuvers there."
"We are only looking for quiet peace and the enjoyment of our home," says McCoy. "Why are the pilots being protected and not the residents? It's lawless."
Holzwarth says, "There's no way they're going to get to their goal of no airplanes."